Aviation’s greenhouse gases to be included in EU Emissions Trading Scheme on 1 January 2012

June 9th, 2011 by Office of the European Commissioner for Climate Action

The EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) was established in 2003 by Directive 2003/87/EC and started operation on 1 January 2005.

Initially the EU ETS included only land based industrial installations.

In 2008, it was decided that from 1 January 2012 aviation activities of aircraft operators that operate flights arriving at and departing from European Community aerodromes will also be included in the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community.

The legislation covers 30 States including the 27 EU Member States and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

A Flybe Bombardier Dash8 at Gatwick Airport (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Airlines have been monitoring their emissions during 2010, and are required to verify and report these emissions to their administering Member States by 31 March 2011. By that same date, airlines applied for free allocations of emissions allowances on the basis of their activities in 2010. Based on information submitted by the Member States, the European Commission will calculate the benchmark that will define how many free allowances aircraft operators will receive. This benchmark decision will be published by 30 September 2011.

The legislation (directive 2008/101/EC), which is backed by European Union Member States, the European Parliament, and the European Commission, will be fully implemented from 1 January 2012.

  • The EU recognizes that ultimately global action is required, but this will take time to develop. After years of little progress at international level, the European Union has decided to act.
  • The EU believes that the inclusion of aviation in the emissions trading system is fully consistent with international law. It is also consistent with the policy of ICAO, the global body responsible for international civil aviation. The U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), in fact already in 2004 unanimously endorsed the idea of emissions trading, and expressly recognised that one of the most promising avenues to pursue this was to “incorporate emissions from international aviation into States’ emissions trading schemes”. This is precisely what the EU decided to do when it subsequently took the initiative to include aviation in the EU’s emissions trading system (EU ETS). And it is also compatible with the Chicago Convention.
  • This legislation establishes a cap on emissions – a pollution ceiling. If there are less emissions than the ceiling no payment is required.  The purpose of the legislation is to reduce emissions, not to make money.
  • The European Union is engaged in on-going discussions with China Air Transport Association (CATA) and the China Civil Airports Association (CCAA), and the aviation industry.


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