Brussels, 20 December 2006
Climate change: Commission proposes bringing
air transport into EU Emissions Trading Scheme
The European Commission today underscored its firm
commitment to combating climate change by proposing legislation to bring
greenhouse gas emissions from civil aviation into the EU Emissions Trading
Scheme (EU ETS). EU emissions from international air transport are increasing
faster than from any other sector. This growth threatens to undermine the
EU’s progress in cutting overall greenhouse gas emissions. Including civil
aviation in the EU ETS is a cost-effective way for the sector to control its
emissions and implements an approach endorsed by the International Civil
Aviation Organization (ICAO). The proposed directive will cover emissions from
flights within the EU from 2011 and all flights to and from EU airports from
2012. Both EU and foreign aircraft operators would be covered. Like the
industrial companies already covered by the EU ETS, airlines will be able to
sell surplus allowances if they reduce their emissions and will need to buy
additional allowances if their emissions grow. Any increase in ticket costs
resulting from the scheme is expected to be limited, and significantly lower
than rises due to oil price changes in recent years.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “Aviation too should make
a fair contribution to our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The
Commission will continue to work with our international partners to promote the
objectives of a global agreement on aviation. Bringing aviation emissions into
the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is a cost-effective solution that is good for
the environment and treats all airlines equally.”
Growth in aviation emissions
While emissions from domestic flights are covered by the Kyoto Protocol
targets, international aviation is not. Moreover, jet fuel for international
flights has historically been exempted from taxation. Bilateral air agreements
between EU Member States and third countries are being changed to allow this
possibility, but this will take time to implement.
Emissions from aviation currently account for about 3% of total EU greenhouse
gas emissions, but they are increasing fast – by 87% since 1990 – as
air travel becomes cheaper without its environmental costs being addressed. For
example, someone flying from London to New York and back generates roughly the
same level of emissions as the average person in the EU does by heating their
home for a whole year.
The rapid growth in aviation emissions contrasts with the success of many
other sectors of the economy in reducing emissions.
Without action, the growth in emissions from flights from EU airports will by
2012 cancel out more than a quarter of the 8% emission reduction the EU-15 must
achieve to reach its Kyoto Protocol target. By 2020, aviation emissions are
likely to more than double from present levels.
The proposed directive
The proposal for a directive follows up on a September 2005
concluded that bringing aviation into the EU ETS was the best approach, from an
economic and environmental point of view, to tackling the sector's emissions.
This was subsequently supported by the Council and European Parliament.
The directive will treat all airlines equally, whether EU-based or foreign.
From 2011 all domestic and international flights between EU airports will be
covered, and from 2012 the scope will be extended to all international flights
arriving at or departing from EU airports. It is estimated that by 2020
CO2 savings of as much as 46%,or 183 million tonnes, could be
achieved each year– equivalent for example to twice Austria's annual
greenhouse gas emissions from all sources – compared with business as
To limit the rapid growth in aviation emissions, the total number of emission
allowances available will be capped at the average emissions level in 2004-2006.
Some allowances will be auctioned by Member States but the overwhelming majority
will be issued for free on the basis of a harmonised efficiency benchmark
reflecting each operator’s historical share of traffic.
To reduce administrative costs, very light aircraft will not be covered, and
each operator will be administered by only one Member State.
The directive is part of a comprehensive approach to addressing aviation
emissions which also includes more research into greener technologies and
improvements in air traffic management.
Impact on ticket prices
Assuming airlines fully pass on any extra costs to customers, by 2020 the
price of a typical return flight within the EU could rise by between €1.8
and €9. Long-haul trips could increase by somewhat more depending on the
exact journey length, due to their higher environmental impact. Nevertheless,
ticket price increases are in any case expected to be significantly lower than
the extra costs passed on to consumers due to world oil price increases in
See also MEMO/06/506
Further information is available at
 Reducing the climate
change impact of aviation. COM(2005) 459 final.