Expanding the EU Emissions Trading Scheme

By Karima Delli, MEP (The Greens/EFA) Chair of the TRAN Committee

At the beginning of the year, the European Commission launched the Green New Deal, which aims to put the fight against climate change at the centre of European policymaking.

To ensure that this initiative does not remain a mere declaration of good intentions, placing the transport sector at the heart of this strategy is key.

The sector accounts for 30% of total CO2 emissions in the European Union and it is the only one whose emissions continue to increase (+26% compared to 1990 levels).

While representing a relatively small share of EU transport (3%), international aviation has recorded the largest percentage increase (compared to 1990 levels) (+114%) and air traffic figures are forecast to skyrocket, followed by international shipping (+33%) and land transport (+22%).

We are far from meeting the Paris agreements targets. It is high time that the transport sector contributed fully to the fight against climate change.

Much has been done in the last mandate on road transport: CO2 performance standards have been set for cars and lorries for 2025 and 2030, respectively, and targets have been set for clean vehicles for public procurement.

We must continue with our efforts to decarbonise road transport, but this new mandate should also see major steps taken towards decarbonising air and maritime transport.

It is high time that the aviation and maritime sectors paid in full their impact on the climate.

As such, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is a key instrument in the fight against climate change. It is the world’s first major carbon market and it caps emissions from industry and aviation by issuing a number of emission allowances that market players can then trade with one another.

However, aviation is currently the only sector subject to the European carbon market (EU ETS) whose emissions continue to increase. In 2018, aviation emissions subject to the EU ETS increased by 4% compared to 2017, reaching 67 million tons of CO2.

The Green Deal allows for the revision of the EU ETS in 2021: we need to seize this opportunity to fully include the aviation sector! It is imperative that the emissions cap allocated to airlines be reduced and that the “Stop the clock” mechanism adopted in 2012 under pressure from airlines and countries such as China and the United States to exclude international flights from the EU ETS be terminated.

The Commission’s 2012 initial proposal included aviation as a whole in the EU ETS. “Stop the clock” has been renewed several times since then pending a comprehensive solution taken by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). As is well known, progress at the ICAO level is stagnating, or at least moving far too slowly.

We should therefore consider coming back to the original scope of the EU ETS for aviation, i.e. covering the aviation sector as a whole, including international flights.

It is my hope that the European Commission will deliver on Mrs Von der Leyen’s promise to include the maritime sector in the EU ETS. The stakes are high.

If international shipping were a country, it would rank as the world’s 6th-largest CO2 emitter, placing it ahead of individual EU Member States. Due to the expected increase in world trade, emissions generated by international shipping will rise by 50-250% by 2050 compared to 2012 levels.

Although the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is key to reducing the environmental impact of aviation and shipping, we should not solely rely on it.

In addition to revising the EU ETS, we need to tackle the remaining tax exemptions on kerosene and marine fuel and the development of low to zero-carbon vessels.

Finally, introducing an EU legislation for zero-emission ports would have considerable benefits for the health of European citizens and the climate.