The EU Council of Ministers officially adopted, on 24 October 2008, the new directive which, from 1 January 2012, includes flights to and from Community airports in the European emissions trading scheme (ETS - Directive 2008/101/CE). As from that date, airlines will be obliged to comply with a certain CO2 emissions level, corresponding to an initial level of free allowances. If they emit more CO2 than the initially defined amount, they will have to buy quotas on the market.

As it is defined today, the ETS will require airlines to buy emissions allowances if they emit a volume of CO2 greater than around 85% of the average emissions registered between 2004 and 2006 (see technical fact sheet on ETS). This is what is known as a 'cap and trade' system, the principles of which are to limit emissions to a given level (cap) and to allow operators to buy or sell allowances on the market (trade).

The inclusion of aviation in the ETS can be seen as the first real political attempt to limit CO2 emissions from aviation.

Why act? Aviation's share of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU is relatively limited. It is generally estimated at 3%. However, the figures cited by the aviation sector and the environmentalists do not tally. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), aviation accounts for only 2% of CO2 emissions at global level. European aviation alone is believed to account for only 0.5% of global CO2 emissions. So is this really cause for concern? These figures are a good argument for airlines, which point out that the impact of 'their' ETS on climate change at global level will necessarily be limited.

Environmentalists reply that these figures only refer to CO2 and not to the other greenhouse gases emitted by aircraft. The IPPC also estimates that the total impact of aviation on climate change is two to four times higher than the effect of CO2 emissions alone. The EU tends to confirm the more 'optimistic' ratio, estimating that the real impact of aviation is twice as high as that of CO2 emissions. These estimates may be too low because they do not take into account the impact of cirrus clouds that can form as a result of the water vapour discharged by aircraft. That impact is not well known today but is believed to be significant.

It should be noted that a recent update of the IPCC estimates, taking into account the latest traffic statistics and gases other than CO2, argue that the impact of aviation on...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT