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EU Exempts Long-Haul Flights from ETS Until 2017

Airplane sunsetThe European Parliament yesterday postponed, to 2017, the date by which the EU’s Emissions Trading System will apply to the entire length of flights in and out of Europe.

The 458-120 vote brings three decades of contentious negotiation to a close, Reuters reports.

EU rules bringing aviation into the ETS, with airlines required to cover the entire length of flights starting from or ending in Europe, originally took effect in 2012. A number of nations protested, with China and the US threatening retaliation.

In November 2012, the European Commission announced it would “stop the clock” for one year on the rules, following a decision by the International Civil Aviation Organization to consider a global market-based mechanism. And last October, the ICAO agreed to create such a market-based program starting in 2020, although details won’t decided in 2016.

With yesterday’s vote, only the portions of flights within the EU will be included in the ETS, at least until 2017. The parliament picked that end-date because the European Commission hopes the ICAO will hammer out its deal by then, the BBC reports.

The vote also delays a deadline to cover 2013 emissions, by one year, to April 2015. And the new rules require EU member states to report how they spend revenues from the ETS, in an effort to ensure that this money is used to combat climate change.

EU governments had wanted to extend the long-haul exemption to run until 2020. The parliament’s decision also runs counter to a vote by its environment committee. That panel rejected a long-haul flight exemption, running until 2016, which had been brokered by EU diplomats. At the time it seemed the exemption proposal might not have enough votes to pass the full parliament.

The European Low Fares Airline Association, which represents airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet that fly almost entirely within Europe, criticized the vote. It said that unless the EU reverses its decision, ELFAA will have no choice but to revive a legal challenge.

Emissions trading offers the best and most cost-effective way of mitigating aviation emissions and climate impact by 2050, according to a report by Manchester Metropolitan University’s Centre for Air Transport and Environment.

An analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Environmental Defense Fund found the aviation industry could achieve its goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 by tapping into the available supply of carbon credits, at a cost to the industry as low as $4 per metric ton of CO2.

Picture credit: Kuster & Wildhaber via Flickr

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