All air carriers will be bound by the CO2 Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) from 2012 for both intra-European flights and those arriving in or departing from the European Union. The agreement adopted unanimously in Council by the environment ministers, on 20 December in Brussels with Francisco Nunes Correia chairing, comes close in part to the European Parliament's aim of introducing a single scheme for all airlines, but at the same time it postpones for one year the system's entry into force (the EP wanted it to apply from 2011). The 27 member states will now try to reach agreement with the European Parliament before the vote at second reading (co-decision).

The agreement 'puts the European Union's sense of responsibility into action. It is the first concrete post-Bali case,' said Portuguese EU Council President Francisco Nunes Correia and Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas. In fact, all the delegations stated that the debate had to be placed in the context of the decisions of the United Nations climate conference (Bali, 3-15 December). They were all determined to reach a decision at the 20 December Council in order to confirm, with actions, the strong position defended by the EU in Bali and to send the international community a clear signal.


The aviation sector will thus come fully under the ETS, which is already being applied to other big industrial sectors. Like all undertakings concerned, the airlines will have to operate within a strict framework aimed at limiting their CO2 emissions. After lengthy debates, particularly over phased-in entry (two phases, the first covering intra-European flights and the second flights arriving in or departing from the EU), with entry into force ranging from 2011 to 2013, the ministers finally agreed to the Presidency's compromise, which establishes a single date for all air carriers. As from 2012, all airlines operating in the EU, and in their relations with non-EU countries, will have to hold pollution rights' calculated on their average emissions during the reference period 2004-2006. For the first year, 2012, 10% of these quotas will be auctioned (at first reading, Parliament called for 25%). For the following years, the figure will depend on the revision of the working of the ETS, due to be presented by the Commission on 23 January 2008.

Another sensitive point was the use to be made of the proceeds of auctions. Can the member states be obliged to reinvest these funds in...

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