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EU delays climate action for international flights

Updated 19 October to amend the “notes to editors”  

BRUSSELS 18 October 2017. Today, the EU Member States together with the European Commission and the European Parliament reached a provisional deal on aviation’s role in the EU carbon market. Lawmakers chose not to make airlines pay more for their pollution and postponed the date to potentially include international flights to January 2024.

The Parliament originally voted to bring international flights back under the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) from 1 January 2021, barring a review of the global aviation offsetting scheme agreed on last year by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). However, today the policy makers decided to push back the date to 2024, four years after the international scheme should be functional.

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

“Stalling European climate action in the aviation sector because of a weak international deal doesn’t do justice to the climate. This is especially alarming since the industry’s efforts are nowhere near enough what is needed to stay below 1.5 degrees warming. To address the soaring emissions from flying, we urgently need other policies, including an end to subsidies, tax breaks and generous state aid.”

In a positive move, the lawmakers did support the Commission’s proposal to introduce an annually declining cap for the aviation emissions in Europe from 2021. Unlike other sectors covered by the EU ETS, airlines do not currently have an annual reduction in the number of pollution permits distributed.

Auctioning levels remain at 15% for a sector with pollution that grew 8% in 2016, asking very little payment from an industry that sees its emissions rising year on year.

To shield the EU carbon market against a flood of surplus pollution permits, the policy makers agreed that from 2018, no allowances from the United Kingdom would be allowed for compliance should the country also decide to leave the EU ETS following its exit from the EU.



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 editors:

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.

Today, the EU Member States, the European Parliament, and European Commission reached a partial agreement, pending confirmation by the EU ambassadors at the so called Coreper. The deal includes the following elements:

  • Stop the clock reinstated: The exclusion of international flights is not indefinite, but delayed until December 31st, 2023 and subject to a review
  • Subject to the review, the so called Linear Reduction Factor applied for aviation from 2021
  • Auctioning share kept at 15%. The Commission shall report on the cost pass through in the aviation sector with a view to increasing auctioning as part of the review. The European Parliament wanted to increase the auctioning share to 50%
  • The so called “Brexit amendment” agreed: From 2018, no allowances from the UK would be allowed for compliance should the UK leave the EU ETS
  • The review is more detailed 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
  • The CORSIA to be implemented through EU law through revising the EU ETS
  • The formal agreement is on hold until the general ETS is concluded, as an institutional issue on delegated or implementing acts for MRV provisions was put on hold to be decided with the general reform.


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