EU agrees to exempt long-haul flights from paying for carbon emissions until 2016

The European Union reached this week a preliminary deal on a law that will exempt long-haul flights from paying for carbon emissions until 2016. According to some critical, the deal is a further weakening of the bloc’s stance following immense international pressure and threats of a trade war. In fact, some groups such as environmentalists called on the European Parliament to reject it.

Without parliament’s approval, the original law, covering the length of intercontinental flights into EU airports, would reapply, raising the risk of a new outbreak of trade threats.

EU diplomatic sources said the agreement would maintain a suspension of the law for intercontinental flights until 2016, with a provision to revert back to making all aviation pay for allowances in 2017 if a global deal on curtailing aviation emissions cannot be agreed.

“With today’s deal, European governments have conceded again to international pressure without getting anything meaningful in return, let alone guarantees that soaring international aviation emissions will one day be tackled,” said Bill Hemmings, aviation manager at campaign group Transport & Environment. Together with the European Green party, he urged the European Parliament to reject the deal. “It is reckless to dismantle this effective climate policy instrument in exchange for a vague promise on a global scheme in the distant future,” said Satu Hassi, climate change spokeswoman for the Greens.

An EU law on requiring all aviation using EU airports to pay for their emissions by buying allowances on the EU Emissions Trading System led to threats of an international trade war. Non-EU nations, including the United States, India and China, accused the European Union of breaching rules of sovereignty and threatened retaliation.

Eventually the Commission agreed to suspend the law for intercontinental flights, but on condition a global alternative was drawn up. The law has always remained for intra-EU flights. The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in October agreed it would deliver a global plan to curb airline emissions by 2016 for implementation in 2020.



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