Rhein on Energy and Climate

In the next two days 27 major major countries will meet in Moscow to define a common reaction to the EU`s unilateral inclusion of all airlines into its C02 emission cap and trade regulation that has entered into force at the beginning of the year.

The EU should prepare for an angry riposte that might include reprisals against European airlines and the suspension of “open sky” and overflight agreements.

It will be the first time ever that the EU has manoeuvred itself into such a plight, where its has to confront an alliance of strange bedfellows ranging from China to USA, Russia, India, Australia and Gulf countries. Not a single country on earth has welcomed the EU unilateral action that creates extra administrative burden and costs for airlines. Whatever the ECJ ruling as to the legality of the EU regulation, the EU has hit a sore point by imposing jurisdiction outside its sovereignty.

This is not the moment for ideological stubbornness:

  • The EU desperately needs the support from all the countries that revolt against its unilateral action for many important issues, from oil to trade and raw materials. It must realise that it is no super-power and that the rest of the world would not like it to assume the role of a “climate ayatollah”.
  • The EU emission caps on airlines would have a minuscule impact on the earth’s climate. Under the most optimistic assumption of all third countries and the EU reducing their C02 emissions from air flights to and from the EU by 20 per cent this might reduce global C02 emissions by less than one per cent, as the emissions from air traffic between the EU and the rest of the world account for only about one per cent of global emissions.
  • The preparation and adoption of the legal text by the EU during the last three years has had a positive impact on the work of the ICAO, the UN body in charge of international air traffic. At its 37th session, in October 2011, it has passed a constructive resolution on air traffic and climate change that aims at improving fuel efficiency by 30 per cent until 2030. adopting global C02 certification standards for aircraft engines by 2013and developing of alternative sustainable aircraft fuels by 2050. The EU can take some credit for this positive evolution. It should therefore actively participate in the ongoing ICAO work and help achieve additional improvements and proper implementation.

In order to contain further damage the EU should urgently suspend the application of its airline emission regulation. Everybody would appreciate this and praise its political wisdom. It has achieved some results by pushing the ICAO to take climate issues more seriously.

In the coming months it should focus its and diplomatic skills on coming up with effective global solutions for addressing the major sources of climate change – electricity generation, buildings, cars&trucks and tropical forests. It is in these fields, not air in traffic, that the decisive battles will have to be fought. It is here that the EU has to find allies.

When will the Commission come up with bold proposals?

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  1. Why should Europe back down when our airlines fly to other parts of the Globe we have to comply with there requirements. Now the shoe is on the other foot and it is about time that air transport paid for its emissions.

    Whilst they maybe low in % terms they are the fastest growing sector for transport emissions.

    This falls nicely into line with the polluter pays views of the EU which should be every ones views.

    Only in this way can we encourage a massive shift to sustainable life-styles now not by 2050 when it will be to late.

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