Eurocontrol has released its so-called smaller emitters tool for calculating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for the purposes of compliance with Europe's emissions trading scheme (ETS) even though the agency has yet to complete formal negotiations with member state Ukraine, which has been holding out from approving the program since May. The European Commission has given its backing to the use of the small emitters tool for the purposes of ETS monitoring, reporting and verification and the Excel-spreadsheet-based system is available for download from the Eurocontrol Web site under the emissions trading section of the aircraft operators' section.
The small emitters tool (also referred to as the ETS Support Facility) calculates CO2 emissions for each trip by calculating fuel burn for a given distance flown based on generic performance data covering most common aircraft types. What is still not clear from the Eurocontrol Web site is the official definition of a small emitter. The original proposal for the tool envisioned its use being restricted to operators generating fewer than 10,000 metric tons of CO2 per year, but the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) has been lobbying to have this threshold raised to at least 50,000 metric tons. Currently operators emitting fewer than 10,000 metric tons of CO2 per year will be permitted to use the ETS Support Facility. EBAA is pushing for this threshold to be raised to 50,000 tons, or even 500,000 tons, on the grounds that the margin of error with the Eurocontrol data is sufficiently accurate to ensure a precise accounting of emissions on this scale. The association is arguing that unless the threshold is raised, operators will resort to registering aircraft on multiple air operator's certificates to avoid exceeding the 10,000-ton limit. Also still to be resolved with the European Commission is whether the data generated by the small emitter tool will need to be verified by an approved third party for ETS compliance.
Opinion is divided among ETS experts as to whether the small emitters tool is sufficiently accurate. Some consultants have maintained that smaller operators, mainly in the business aviation sector, risk losing out on the correct free allocation of carbon credits that will be assigned on the basis of 2010 emissions and could also end up having to buy credits for more CO2 than their aircraft actually emit. However, other observers have maintained that even if the final tally of emissions paid for by operators is not particularly accurate, it will still be less expensive overall to use the free small emitters tool than to pay to have emissions calculated to a higher degree of accuracy.