What are the limits of Europe’s ETS?

 - April 1, 2011, 7:10 AM

It is astonishing to many operators outside Europe, but under the European Union’s emissions trading scheme they are accountable for their engines’ carbon dioxide emissions from the minute they take off for a flight to or from Europe–even for miles flown outside European airspace. So, a flight taking off from Paris, Texas, to fly to Paris, France, will “pay” for its emissions right across the Atlantic.

Except, that is, if the operator takes advantage of one of at least two available loopholes. Switzerland remains outside the European Union. So the same operator could fly from Paris, Texas, to Zurich and then fly on to the French capital. It would then be accountable under ETS only for the sector between Switzerland and France.

Then there is the Isle of Man–the offshore tax bolt-hole that likes to have its cake and eat it when it comes to Europe. The Isle of Man has declared itself to be outside the EU ETS and is telling operators to make technical stops in the middle of the Irish Sea to avoid full ETS liability.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has published yet another updated list of operators liable for ETS and the national authorities to which they have been assigned for compliance purposes. It remains to be seen whether this version is any more accurate than its shambolic predecessors, but it can be found at http://ec.europa.eu/clima/documentation/transport/aviation/operators_en.htm. –C.A.