Europe to decide fate of ETS support facility

 - April 30, 2010, 4:39 AM

The viability of business aviation’s continued participation in Europe’s controversial emissions trading scheme (ETS) should be decided at a meeting of Eurocontrol’s air navigation services board on May 6. The air traffic management agency is due to decide whether or not to back the development of the EU ETS support facility that would give operators a relatively cost-effective way to meet the requirement to monitor, report and verify (MRV) their carbon emissions.

The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) has warned that unless this tool is available, operators will face unacceptably high costs associated with having to pay independent verifiers to confirm their emissions data. Many business aircraft operators indicated that they would be using the EU ETS support facility when they registered their MRV plans with European authorities and if this option is blocked they will have to reconsider how they can comply with ETS.

“We are almost of the view that if this doesn’t go ahead then we might just say that we can’t do it,” EBAA chief executive Brian Humphries told AIN. “We have done our best to make this [ETS] work, but we simply cannot participate in it without the necessary tools. We might just have to blow the whistle if we don’t get this tool.” EBAA may go so far as to advise its members to withdraw from the ETS process on the basis that some European officials now privately concede that it
was a mistake to try to include business aviation in ETS.

A senior representative of the European Commission’s environment directive has acknowledged that it is impractical for business aircraft operators to participate in ETS because they generate such a small volume of emissions compared with the airlines. However, he indicated to EBAA that the legal requirement cannot be changed until it is proved beyond doubt that the existing system does not work.

The withdrawal of the EU ETS support facility would essentially confirm that ETS is unworkable for so-called small emitters, according to EBAA. Conceivably, it might be the proof needed to prompt moves by the EC to withdraw the requirement for business aircraft to be subject to ETS, although this would require complex changes to existing legislation.

The EU ETS support facility is a development of Eurocontrol’s so-called Pagoda model for calculating emissions from aircraft based on data from flight plans logged in the ATM agency’s Central Flow Management Unit. However, the important difference is that EU ETS also provides verification of the data and so, EBAA hopes, should avoid the need for operators to pay for expensive independent verification.

However, airlines have indicated that they will not support a decision to spend Eurocontrol funds on developing the EU ETS system. Several European Union member states have said that they endorse the system, not least because their environmental and aviation authorities are struggling to deal with ETS data themselves. Some smaller regional airlines also support the development of EU ETS, and this gives EBAA hope that the decision by the Eurocontrol board could go business aviation’s way on May 6.

Meanwhile, EBAA also has to consider some new EC proposals for the carbon auctioning system through which aircraft operators will be required to trade carbon dioxide (CO2) credits beginning in January 2012. “As currently proposed this looks incredibly bureaucratic and there is no mention of small emitters,” commented Humphries. “Alongside the EU ETS support facility, we need a small emitters trading facility, where small operators can buy small amounts of carbon in a non-bureaucratic way.”