The European Commission agreed on Wednesday a review of the regulations on emissions from the aviation sector that will increase the rate paid by airlines for the carbon dioxide released by their flights between European countries. However, the agreement, which has yet to be formalized by the Member States and the European Parliament, keeps long-distance international flights (from or to third countries), which are the most polluting, out of the new system. The decision has unleashed the ire of airlines whose main business is intra-European flights such as Ryanair, EasyJet or Vueling,
Brussels argues that these flights to other continents are subject to the United Nations global emissions trading system known as Corsia. It also ensures that the pact obliges the European Commission to review whether this international framework is effective for the sector to contribute to combating global warming, so that if the evaluation is negative it will have to launch a legislative proposal to include these international flights in the European system, according to a statement from the European Parliament.
Aviation is part of the Union’s ETS Emissions Trading Scheme, in which rights are traded and reduced each year. The mechanism also provides for the distribution of rights free of charge and, currently, 82% of aviation rights are part of this group. Now, the agreement between Member States and MEPs contemplates eliminating all free CO₂ emission credits from 2026, one year earlier than the original proposal that the European Commission included in the Fit for 55 package a year ago. and a half. To guarantee this progressive withdrawal of free allocations, the agreement provides that 25% of these credits have been withdrawn by 2024 and one year later, 50% of all of them have already been eliminated.
On the other hand, the negotiators of both institutions agreed to reserve 20 million emission credits between January 1, 2024 and December 31, 2030 for airlines that use renewable fuels such as hydrogen from clean sources or other biofuels. With respect to emissions of gases other than CO₂, such as nitrogen oxides or sulfur dioxide, the pact obliges the European Commission to create an information, data and verification mechanism from 2025 that will serve to prepare a proposal that covers these gases.
It also includes an exception until 2030 for emissions from flights between outermost regions such as the Canary Islands and countries of the European Union and also for air travel between two different airports within the same outermost territory of the same Member State.
The Brussels decision has fallen like a jug of cold water among the airlines that operate in Europe. The rebellion has been led by Ryanair, which has criticized the European Commission for ignoring the European Parliament’s vote to extend the ETS to long-haul flights, which account for more than 54% of EU aviation emissions. , but which carry only 6% of passengers.
“As a result of this indefensible exemption for the richest passengers flying to/from the EU, it is European short-haul passengers who will continue to pay an unfair 100% ETS burden, while generating less than half of the emissions of EU aviation”, the airline has indicated in a statement.
Its CEO, Michael O’Leary, has been even more direct: “Once again, the Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen has abandoned the environment and ordinary families in Europe. While the wealthiest Americans, Europeans and Asians who fly long-haul pay no environmental tax, the more price-sensitive European passengers and their families who travel on short-haul flights, many of them to peripheral Member States such as Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Malta and Cyprus, and having no alternative to air transport, are forced to pay all the ETS charges, despite the fact that they generate less than half of EU aviation emissions. This is clearly unfair.”
It is not the only criticism. For the environmental organization Transport & Environment, the agreement reached by the community institutions falls short in scope for excluding international flights, which leads the bloc to “lose another decade” of climate action due to the “cowardice” of European governments. “European average families will continue to pay much more for their CO₂ emissions than frequent long-haul flights,” lamented the organization’s director of aviation, Jo Dardenne.
The Association of Airlines (ALA), which brings together the main Spanish companies, has also positioned itself against the new regulations because, together with national measures such as the new tax on kerosene, it will harm Spain’s tourist interests compared to other markets.
The Airlines For Europe (A4E) platform, which represents the majority of European airlines, recalled that the sector “has been paying for its emissions through the ETS system since 2012”, as well as that the cost “is likely to increase five times by 2025 to more than 5,000 million annually”. For this reason, the European aviation employers claimed to be “extremely disappointed” by the fact that all free credits will be withdrawn as of 2026, a date that is “long before effective decarbonization solutions are available to the scale necessary for them to work.
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