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EU member states will back an industry proposal to reduce airlines’ climate obligations

10 June 2020

The climate plan for aviation is losing its last shred of credibility, after the European Union confirmed it will back an industry proposal to water down the rules, campaigners have warned.

In the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, the International Air Transport Association (Iata), called on the UN body responsible for aviation to ease airlines’ obligations to offset their emissions growth under a scheme known as Corsia.

Iata urged the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) to change the baseline from which emissions growth will be measured – a move it estimates could save airlines $15 billion in carbon offsetting costs.

At a time when the industry is reeling from grounded flights due to Covid-19, airlines argue current rules risk creating “an inappropriate economic burden on the sector”.

On Tuesday, EU member states backed the baseline change, which could see airlines pay nothing for their climate impact until 2024.

France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain and Greece will speak in favour of the adjustment at a meeting of Icao’s council this week. That means the rule change could win majority support.

Member states of Icao have agreed to offset all growth in aviation emissions from 2020. With few technological solutions currently available to reduce planes’ pollution, airlines were expected to fund emissions cuts in other sectors, under a carbon market called Corsia.

The agreed baseline for measuring emissions was to be the two-year average across 2019 and 2020. But with 2020 turning into a year of anomalously low air travel because of restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19, airlines have proposed to measure from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Analysis by the Öko-Institut in Germany found that changing the baseline to 2019 could give airlines a free pass to pollute for the next three to six years depending on the speed of the recovery. 

But the move did not receive blanket support inside the EU. Sweden did not support the rule change. And a cross-party group of European lawmakers from the Parliament’s environment committee called for the average 2019-2020 baseline to be maintained until a planned review in 2022, when the shape of the sector’s recovery will be clearer.

The 36 members of the Icao Council, which includes the world’s largest air travel manufacturing and infrastructure nations, are expected to take a position on the issue this week.

Besides European countries, the US and the Latin American Civil Aviation Commission are also supporting the rule change. Any decision taken by the council requires a majority of at least 19 countries.

 

Source: Climate Home News