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On 26 February, the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment (ENVI) gave its green light to the temporary suspension of the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS) for intercontinental flights leaving from or flying to the EU. MEPs stressed that the ETS suspension only applied for a maximum of a year and that, in exchange, they expected international negotiations on the involvement of the air transport sector in the fight against climate change to be completed by autumn 2013.

MEPs also voted for a mandate for the rapporteur to immediately start negotiating with the Council. This is to swiftly reach an agreement on this proposal for an exemption from Directive 2003/87/EC: a formal decision must be reached and published in the EU Official Journal before 30 April, failing which the European Commission would be legally forced to apply the legislation in its current form.

The Commission has proposed to stop the clock for intercontinental flights, for all aviation companies (third-country airlines and EU airlines) -a COM(2012)0697 - to give the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) "a chance," and as a sign of goodwill after some positive elements have started to emerge from negotiations in November 2012. In September, the ICAO will meet at its tri-annual general assembly and it is expected to adopt an international agreement on reducing emissions from airlines.

ENVI made it clear that stop the clock' will have a strictly limited duration, and that it expects negotiators to reach an international agreement in the provided timeframe. It also clarified several provisions and asked for a clear earmarking of generated income, so that the revenues should be spent to mitigate climate change.

"The vote today is a clear signal that the European Union wants an international solution. There are no more excuses for third countries not to engage in the issue. Third countries have given the impression that it is the European Union that stands in the way but we will see if they have enough commitment. I appeal especially to US President Obama, who has been awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize among others for his engagement in climate change and to Secretary of State Kerry, who had introduced the Kerry-Liberman Bill in the Senate, which had foreseen emissions trading for the US economy including aviation. They lose all credibility if they continue opposing a solution in this important area," said rapporteur Peter Liese (EPP, Germany).

Environmental NGOs Transport & Environment (T&E), WWF, Germanwatch and Brot fur die Welt are of the view that "the stop the clock' concession is bigger than necessary given the limited progress made in the ICAO". However, noting "the fact that the EU's emissions clock will start again if ICAO does not manage to agree on this long-awaited deal," the NGOs said "Parliament's decision rightly increases pressure on ICAO to agree on a global deal to curb international aviation emissions".

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Publication:Europe Energy
Date:Mar 6, 2013

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