Times of Malta, 28th June 2008, by Ivan Camilleri in Brussels

The European Parliament and EU member states, represented by the current Slovenian presidency, yesterday reached a landmark deal on the details of plans to include aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) as of 2012.

Though the deal is considered to be a breakthrough in the EU climate change policy, it will come at a cost, to be borne by passengers. Aviation emissions are considered to be a cornerstone in the EU target to cut a fifth of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Malta, representing the national airline’s view, was not very enthusiastic about this Comm-ission initiative as it deems that airline companies operating from the periphery of the EU, such as Air Malta, will be heavily penalised.

After lengthy talks, the new compromise between the Euro-pean Parliament and member states stipulates that all flights, both within the EU as well as international ones, arriving or leaving EU airports, will have to participate in the Union’s carbon cap-and-trade scheme as of 2012.

Also, airlines operating in the EU will start being allocated pollution permits. However, these will be capped at 97 per cent of average greenhouse gases emitted in 2004-2006. This cap would then be lowered annually.

At the same time, 85 per cent of the permits would be handed out to operators for free but the remaining 15 per cent would have to be auctioned.

Airlines wanting to emit more CO2 than what they are allowed will have to buy extra permits from other companies, encouraging them to invest in greener technologies.

It was also agreed that revenues from auctioning would not be earmarked for research on improving efficiency in the aviation sector or for investment into green modes of transport, as demanded by MEPs, due to national governments’ strong resistance to such plans. But the compromise would ask member states to report on how they spend the money.

The deal will now have to be sealed by MEPs, with a vote expected during next month’s plenary. Individual member states also need to give their final consent.

In a first reaction, the deal has not gone down well with the aviation industry.

“Fifteen per cent auctioning in 2012 is unaffordable and unacc-eptable for our airlines given today’s high fuel prices and weakening demand,” the director general of the International Air Carriers Association (IACA), Sylviane Lust said.

Scientists consider plane emissions to be among the major contributors to climate change and global warming.