EU states to clear the runway for aviation emissions trading

The European Union (EU) has threatened seven member states with legal action over their slow progress incorporating European aviation emissions legislation into national law.

Cyprus, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have all been told to speed up adoption of measures necessary to bring the aviation sector into the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) from 2012.

The countries missed an earlier deadline to transpose the EU rules into law in February this year and have subsequently failed to legislate even after the European Commission (EC) sent a formal reminder letter in March.

The EC has received notification that the process is underway in all seven countries, but, on the recommendation of Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, it has this week sent each member state a reasoned opinion – the final step before legal proceedings – asking them to accelerate the process.

Those that fail to do so may be hauled before the European Court of Justice.

The EU passed legislation last year to include all aircraft operators that fly into or out of EU airports in the ETS from the start of 2012, as part of efforts to reduce aviation carbon emissions which have doubled since 1990.

The EC said that even if airlines meet voluntary targets to improve fuel efficiency by two per cent a year – a figure agreed on in November in Montreal – emissions will still soar to 70 per cent above 2005 levels by the end of the decade and could skyrocket to between 300 per cent and 600 per cent higher by 2050.

However, much of the aviation industry is fiercely opposed to inclusion in the ETS, arguing that a global mechanism for addressing emissions would prove more effective than regional efforts. The industry maintains that the non-binding targets it signed up to in Montreal signal its intent to curb emissions growth, while a number of US airlines are taking legal action against the EU, challenging its right to legislate against emissions from trans-Atlantic flights.

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