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EU lawmakers improve Europe’s aviation pollution rules

11 Jul 2017

BRUSSELS 11 July 2017. Today, the European Parliament’s environment committee voted to include international flights in Europe’s carbon market from 2021 onwards. Lawmakers also took small steps towards making the aviation industry pay more for its massive climate impact.

The committee was voting on aviation’s future role under the EU’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) following a decision adopted last year by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to set up a global offsetting scheme. The lawmakers agreed to exempt international flights until 2020, as proposed by the European Commission, but voted to bring them back under the EU ETS from 1 January 2021, unless otherwise decided in a review comparing the EU ETS with the international agreement.

Kelsey Perlman, Aviation Policy Officer at Carbon Market Watch said:

“The effectiveness of aviation’s global scheme is under scrutiny due to its weak target, voluntary nature and reliance on offsets. Today, EU lawmakers sent a strong signal that an ineffective international deal should not be allowed to undermine Europe’s climate action at home.” 

The lawmakers supported the Commission’s proposal to introduce an annually declining cap for the aviation emissions from 2021.This means that, unlike to date, the sector will be expected to reduce its emissions in the same as other sectors covered by the EU ETS.

In another welcome move, the committee increased the share of pollution permits that the airlines have to buy from 15% to 50%, earmarking the generated revenues for financing climate related projects. However, paying for 50% of allowances is still a far cry from the full auctioning expected of a sector not at risk of carbon leakage.

Kelsey Perlman:

While not asking the aviation industry to pay anything close to the full price for its huge climate impact, the decisions taken today show the resolve of EU lawmakers to ensure all sectors contribute to the efforts of meeting the Paris Agreement goals.

The EU Member States agreed on their position in June. The European Parliament is expected to adopt its final position on the draft law at a plenary session in September.  Informal negotiations between the Parliament and Council to reach a final compromise will follow afterwards. They must agree on the law by the end of April 2018 when airlines need to surrender allowances to cover their emissions in 2017.


Kelsey Perlman, Policy Officer – Aviation
+32 487 13 02 80
[email protected]

Kaisa Amaral, Press Officer
+32 485 07 68 90
[email protected]

Notes to editor:

In February, the European Commission proposed to continue to exempt international aviation from paying for its emissions under the EU’s carbon market rules in response to the global offsetting deal reached at ICAO.

The position adopted today by the European Parliament environment committee includes the following elements:

  • Stop the clock reinstated: The exclusion of international flights is not indefinite, but only until the end of 2020 and subject to a review
  • Small cut on amount of permits allocated in 2021 and the so called Linear Reduction Factor applied for aviation from 2021
  • Auctioning increased to 50% BUT remaining 50% free allocation can be given to industrial sectors to avoid triggering the cross-sectoral correction factor
  • All revenues earmarked for climate finance
  • Addition of a more detailed review examining the ambition, transparency and overall environmental integrity of the global deal and a report on how the EU could implement the international agreement through a revision of the EU ETS


Policy brief:  Addressing aviation emissions under the EU Emissions Trading System


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