The European Union’s emission trading scheme (EU ETS) has hit a brick wall erected by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). In an October 4 resolution, the ICAO denied a country (or in this case, a region) the right to unilaterally include another country’s airline in its ETS. Instead, the ICAO committed to agree, in 2016, to a global emissions trading mechanism that would take effect in 2020. There is no guarantee, however, that such a system will be introduced, and that it would be as environmentally beneficial as an all-inclusive EU ETS.

Source: Dave Keeshan

This is widely perceived as a political defeat of the EU, which had offered to exclude from its scheme any emissions released outside of EU airspace, but to include all emissions within it. In doing so, the EU had hoped to reach an international deal, particularly with the United States and China, which have opposed inclusion of their airlines in the EU ETS.

The EU has justified the inclusion of foreign airlines in its ETS on the basis of the 1947 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, which allows for each country’s sovereignty of its own airspace. Although the consequences of the ICAO resolution are unclear, the decision is poised to make enforcement of the EU ETS in the aviation sector much more difficult.

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airline emissions, EU-ETS, European Commission, European Union, greenhouse gas emissions, United States
'Stena Europe' in dry dock, Belfast

European Commission: Let's get to work on transportation (Ross/

By: Alexander Ochs and Will Bierbower

Several news items out of Europe in recent weeks demonstrate that the European Union is continuing to lead the push for policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on oil imports. The United Kingdom released its Carbon Plan with concrete steps for how the country will meet its target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions 34 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and the EU continues to prepare for the third phase of its Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS).

The European Commission also officially approved a roadmap last week outlining how the EU can meet its long-term goals to streamline and coordinate transportation across member states. In the plan are 40 initiatives meant to help build a transportation system that increases mobility and improves security and safety, while reducing carbon emissions and reliance on oil imports.

The Commission expects that carrying out the roadmap’s initiatives will facilitate a 60 percent cut in carbon emissions from 1990 levels in the transportation sector by 2050. The EU has already set an overall carbon emissions reduction target of 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. The target for transportation, despite being lower than the overall goal, is ambitious given that this is the only sector in the EU where emissions have continued to rise from 1990 levels. Transportation emissions have grown more than 25 percent in the past 20 years, due in large part to the inertia of current transportation infrastructure and a lack of economically viable alternatives to fossil fuels.

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European Commission, European Union, Roadmap, Single EU Transport Area, transportation