Europe nears ETS plan for small-emitter category

 - March 30, 2010, 5:20 AM

The European Commission (EC) is set to approve a simplified process for so-called small emitters to calculate and report carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from their aircraft as an alternative means of compliance with the new emissions trading scheme (ETS). The EC’s climate change committee has given its blessing to the new process and, following further scrutiny by the European Parliament, it is expected to be adopted by the EC this summer.

The EC has responded to demands from the business aviation lobby to ease the administrative burden on operators who make a small number of flights within Europe or who generate low volumes of CO2. The process will be based on Eurocontrol data for flights and an agreed–but as yet unconfirmed– coefficient for the fuel consumption of specific aircraft types.

As of press time, there were no details about what thresholds will apply to the small emitters. The EC has previously indicated that this might be defined as operators emitting fewer than 10,000 metric tons of CO2 per year. However, the European Business Aviation Association has argued that the margins of error in the Eurocontrol calculation tool are sufficiently reliable as to justify raising this to 50,000 metric tons.

Since January 1, the ETS has been introduced by three non-EU European states. This means that flights into the airspace of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein are also now subject to the requirement to comply with the cap-and-trade system.

According to U.S.-based ETS support company Shockwave Aviation, a higher percentage of operators are now aware of their obligations under the scheme. “This is a drastic improvement from what we encountered in the fall of 2009,” said founder Aaron Misko, referring to the widespread confusion among operators who either were unaware that they were subject to ETS or were struggling to comprehend how to meet requirements to monitor, report and verify emissions beginning Jan. 1, 2010.

However, a recent statement from the UK Environment Agency indicated that as many as 38 percent of the 1,000 or so operators on its ETS list have still not met the requirement to have their plan for monitoring and reporting emissions approved. In theory, the Environment Agency and other national bodies handling ETS can fine operators for non-compliance with deadlines, which fell last year. In practice, they appear still to be holding off from this option, and AIN has yet to hear of an operator being fined.

Shockwave told AIN that it has now contacted, or has attempted to contact, every U.S. operator that has been assigned to a specified European state for ETS compliance. The approval of the so-called tool for small emitters would help operators who have been late in beginning the ETS process to fairly easily calculate their emissions retrospectively to the start of this year.

The first verified emissions data will have to be submitted by March 31, 2011. However, European authorities have still not specified the requirements for the authorized verifiers who will complete this task.

At the same time, according to Europe-based ETS support company ETS Aviation, fees charged by the UK Environment Agency for ongoing administration of
the process could range between £2,500 ($3,750) and £4,000 ($6,000) depending on an operators’ volume of CO2 emissions. The UK agency, which has been criticized for charging significantly more than other European national authorities, has just completed a consultation process on how ETS will be administered once the scheme is fully operational beginning Jan. 1, 2012. Based on this consultation, it is due to issue final rules covering topics such as fines for non-compliance with ETS, confiscation and sale of aircraft, requirements for airports to assist with ETS compliance and possible operating bans.

ETS Aviation is offering operators the chance to try its Aviation Footprinter software free of charge for one month. According to managing director David Carlisle, the program automates the process for managing emissions data and has its own cross-checking process to ensure that reports are accurate and will pass the verification process.