July 6, 2022
European Parliament Debates New Climate Regulations
Airlines Industry

European Parliament Debates New Climate Regulations

STRASBOURG – The European Parliament has just voted on a new package of regulations to address climate change. The regulations cover multiple industries, including aviation.

The European Union (EU) decided to set a goal of a reduction of 55% of the global CO2 emissions by 2030 as a way to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate. The package of regulations, called “Fit for 55,” introduces many changes to the EU’s approach to regulating aviation emissions.

In the EU, there are a few steps for a text to become a regulation. The European Commission, which is made up of the heads of each member country in the bloc, has already created and approved the said regulations. The European Parliament can now amend and vote on them. This would be the last step before the regulations come into force and is the reason why aviation lobbies organized a dinner with representatives from the parliament earlier this week.

The debates took place on Tuesday, and the representatives voted on Wednesday afternoon at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. While the European Commission and some political groups want the parliament to approve this text as it is, other groups and aviation lobbies want Members of the European Parliament (MEP) to amend this text.

Airways‘ Noam Ismaaili-Erny was in Strasbourg to report on the result of the vote. But first, a primer on the three main climate regulations.

Aviation is responsible for about 2–3% of the global CO2 emissions. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

New Climate Regulations on the Table

The first new regulation concerns sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The EU wants to increase the demand for and production of SAF by forcing fuel suppliers to provide a mix of SAF and regular fuel to airlines. The minimum percentage of SAF will increase every year until it reaches 20% in 2035.

This policy will be applied to every airport in the EU and every carrier, including foreign airlines. However, international flights departing from non-EU countries will not be impacted by the decree.

The second regulation deals with carbon taxes under the Emission Trading System (ETS) in the EU. In essence, a company must pay for carbon offsets depending on its CO2 emissions. However, the EU gives certain allowances to some sectors, including air transport.

These allowances mean companies from sectors that emit more carbon due to their activities do not have to pay the full offset, but only a part of it. The regulation voted on by the MEPs on Wednesday will create a maximum number of allowances granted to aviation, which is decreasing every year.

The third regulation involves the implementation of a tax on fossil fuels, including jet fuel, to reduce the emissions coming from all polluting industries.

While the aforementioned regulations seem punitive, the EU also plans to invest in new solutions to reduce emissions from the bloc’s aviation industry.

Ms. De Lange explained her political group’s position on the text during the debates. Photo: Philippe Buissin/European Parliament

MEP Debates

Today, the MEPs had the opportunity to discuss these texts, explaining the point of view of their political group on those subjects.

Ms. De Lange, MEP from the European People’s Party (EPP), said this legislation is “a unique chance and a huge responsibility” to change the course of climate change. Many others agreed with her, such as the Green MEP Mr. Eickhout, saying “What is at stake is whether we are willing to keep the 1.5°C-target [from the Paris agreements on climate] alive.”

Ms. Aubry, a member of the Left group, said, “We regret the weakness of this climate package.” She then accused lobbyists of “bombarding MEPs with messages” against the regulation as it is, showing an email from EasyJet and Ryanair against the ETS.

Other groups said these new regulations were a lot too ambitious. Ms. Mélin, from the ID group, said the new text is about to “weaken [Europe’s] competitiveness and to put Europeans into long-term financial fragility”.

After a slew of negotiations between political parties, it seems like a majority has approved the present text, but the votes are sometimes surprising in the European Parliament.

The European Parliament hosts a monthly plenary session with over 700 MEPs. Photo: Noam Ismaaili-Erny/Airways

IATA Position on the Regulations

The International Association for Air Transport (IATA) published a comment on the “Fit for 55” package, highlighting the changes the organization would like to see before the text is applied.

IATA Senior Vice President for Environment and Sustainability, Sebastian Mikosz, wrote, “The European Commission’s Fit for 55 environmental proposals are a vital opportunity to deliver a significant boost to sustainable aviation, unleashing investment in green technologies and operational efficiencies.”

However, he continued, “Unfortunately, if the “Fit for 55″ proposals are adopted in their current form, it will likely represent a missed opportunity. Instead of promoting green technologies and operational efficiency improvements, making flying sustainable for all, the package aims to reduce flying by raising economic barriers and making it significantly less affordable.”

He then explained IATA’s take on each new regulation, starting with the minimum percentage of SAF that needs to be mixed with regular fuel before being delivered to airlines. Regarding SAF, Mikosz said, “We believe that incentives on fuel producers to deliver more SAF would be a simpler and better solution than a complicated mandate on use. In effect, more carrots and fewer sticks.”

The IATA Senior Vice President then spoke about ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), launched in 2016 to reduce the industry’s emissions.

While the EU wants to enforce CORSIA with this new regulation, the Commission also wants to enforce its own ETS, which is “risking the international consensus for CORSIA and potentially causing the collapse of the world’s first and only sector-specific market-based measure,” according to Mikosz.

The results of the vote on the new ETS system were surprising. Photo: Mathieu Cugnot/European Parliament

Results of the Votes

After long debates yesterday, the text concerning ETS and CORSIA was approved today by a large majority of MEPs. Indeed, almost 550 of them voted for the proposed text, while only 40 representatives voted against it.

The new ways of calculating the carbon tax will be in effect starting next year.

The text preventing free allowances to airlines was not approved, however, which was a huge surprise for the parliament. On one hand, the green and socialist parties said waiting until 2034 to completely forbid free allowances was too late. On the other hand, extreme right parties said it was too early. Those groups voted against the allowance text, which explains the result, with 340 votes against and 265 votes for the regulation.

The MEPs have not voted on the SAF text, but it should be approved by most political groups. However, as we saw with the surprising result today, we cannot be certain until the vote takes place.

The EU is trying to make the industry more sustainable by enforcing these new regulations while funding new technologies. As some political groups approve of this text, aviation lobbyists and other MEPs want to modify it.

Because of the votes today, there will still be negotiations between the European Council and the Parliament before all of the regulations are applied.

Featured image: The European Parliament voted on texts concerning aviation and the environment this week. Photo: European Parliament

Aviation enthusiast and private pilot student, I am fascinated by the aviation industry.

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