EU emissions trading

As of 2012, all airlines that fly to or from airports within the EU must use CO₂ emissions certificates. The EU allots 85% of these certificates without charge based on airlines’ emissions from 2004 to 2006; the airlines must purchase the other 15% by auction according to the EU emissions trading policy that was revised in 2008 to include air traffic in the emissions trading system (ETS). Thus, CO₂ emissions in the air traffic industry are being regulated EU-wide for the first time. Until 2020, the certificate budget allowed for air traffic should remain at 95% of the 2004-2006 level. Since the air traffic CO₂ emissions have been growing consistently, the airlines will need to buy the credits they need from other companies in the trading system, e.g. from energy companies.

Unfortunately, the new EU policy has weak points from an environmental perspective. Firstly, it does not regulate all greenhouse gases, but rather just CO₂ emissions, which currently only make up about one-third to one-half of the total greenhouse effect of air traffic (the rest comes from the creation of clouds and ozone at high altitudes). Secondly, the airlines can achieve around one-half of the required CO₂ reductions through projects in developing countries, yet these projects are not required to uphold the same standards that atmosfair projects do, especially the Gold Standard, which guarantees that projects also help local people as well as the climate.

2 EUR per 1000 kilometres

Calculations show that at the current certificate price, ticket prices should increase by ca. 2 EUR per 1000 kilometre flight route. This is less than the air traffic tax for most short and mid-length routes.

The future of the entire EU ETS is also uncertain. In the system, only the total amount of CO₂ emissions permitted until 2020 is specified. This amount was considerably underutilised in 2008 and 2009 because EU industry used less energy during the recession. Thus, CO₂ emissions also declined and could be saved by corporations for use in the EU ETS. This means that depending on the economic recovery, corporations in the EU will not have to make any efforts to improve their actions towards climate protection until 2015 or even later. The air travel industry can also profit by buying certificates cheaply from other industries to fuel its growth.

atmosfair’s conclusion: including air traffic in the EU Emissions Trading System is not enough since its efficacy is affected by too many outside circumstances.