Business aviation operators from outside the European Union will continue to be exempted from the EU emissions trading system (ETS) for international flights to and from the trading bloc – at least until 2021, when ICAO’s new global carbon offsetting scheme for aviation is scheduled to take effect.
Whether these exemptions remain in place beyond 2021 will depend on the level of international airline participation in ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
In a 3 February draft proposal setting out its intention to keep the current ETS exemptions in place until the ICAO scheme is introduced, the Commission said: “To provide further momentum to international discussions on the remaining rules and governance necessary for the implementation of the GMBM [global market-based measure] it is proposed to continue the reduced scope application of the EU ETS (ie to flights between aerodromes located within the EEA [European Economic Area], as set out in Regulation No 421/2014) beyond 2016.”
ICAO has been working on developing a global measure to address aviation emissions for many years, and announced at its 39th Assembly last autumn that its member states had agreed to its CORSIA proposal.
The EU had originally intended to include intercontinental flights arriving at and departing from its members’ airports in its own ETS but agreed in November 2012 to temporarily suspend – or “stop the clock” on – their inclusion in the scheme, in order to give ICAO a chance to develop a global MBM. Without February’s proposal to maintain the status quo, international aviation emissions would have automatically been reincorporated into the ETS from 2017.
The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has welcomed Europe’s decision to keep these exemptions in place, arguing that the move “correctly reflects the need for a global aircraft emissions proposal”.
Under ICAO’s CORSIA scheme, most business aviation operators will be unaffected by the new global MBM as a result of a “small emitter” exemption, argued for by the NBAA and the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC). Operators emitting less than 10,000t of carbon dioxide a year will not be required to purchase offsets for their emissions.
“The small emitters exemption is an appropriate one, as it recognises business aviation’s innovation and voluntary efforts to reduce aviation’s global carbon footprint,” says NBAA chief executive Ed Bolen. “We are early adopters of technology, and practices that inherently reduce carbon emissions. As a result, business aviation makes up only a small fraction of total aviation emissions.”
However, it is worth emphasising that participation in CORSIA will be voluntary for the first six years, and the EU will be watching closely to see how many airlines voluntarily agree to offset their emissions.
The commission says in its February proposal: “Once there is more clarity about the nature and content of the legal instruments adopted by ICAO for the implementation of the GMBM, as well as about the intentions of our international partners regarding the implementation of the GMBM, a further assessment and review of the EU ETS for the post-2020 period will be carried out.”