Many business aviation operators could lose their livelihoods because of political tussles between the European Union (EU) and the rest of the world, especially over the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS). This was the clear message underpinning the opening general session of EBACE 2012 yesterday, when a panel of EU regulators joined Fabio Gamba, CEO of the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), and Ed Bolen, president of the U.S. National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), to discuss the key issues the industry is grappling with.
On the surface it would appear that that the European Commission (EC) had some sympathy for the sector. “We tried to find ways to create a more flexible, simplified procedure whereby small emitters are not required to monitor emissions on a flight-by-flight basis,” said European Commission air transport director Matthew Baldwin.
However, he went on to say that all operators could do now was to “turn to Eurocontrol,” claiming that political support in Europe for ETS remained strong–despite the fact that the U.S., Russia, China and India are fronting a growing phalanx of resistance to the imposition of the scheme on non-European operators.
Baldwin also urged operators caught out by the complicated scheme to put pressure on ICAO to establish a global sectoral agreement based on market-based measures for emissions mitigation. But he acknowledged that such an agreement could take a long time.
EBAA’s Gamba asked the regulators, “Why are so many important pieces of legislation failing to consider the specifications of business aviation?” He pointed out that the €20 billion (U.S. $25.8 billion) European corporate aviation sector provides more than 164,000 jobs and asserted, “We expect compassion from legislators. ETS is the fault of national aviation authorities who have failed [to consider] our interests.”
NBAA’s Bolen was also critical of the scheme. “ETS is a major issue for U.S. companies operating into Europe,” he said. “Our treatment is not equitable. A commercial operator can make two flights a day every day before it finds itself in the ETS scheme. Noncommercial operators making one single flight have to go through a huge administration burden. Registration costs thousands of dollars. This doesn’t make sense. We should not be targeted for one flight.”
But Baldwin was unsympathetic, saying, “Even if the European Commission were minded to back down, it would be hard to see support in other European institutions for changing the legislation.” However, he added that there is “flexibility” to amend the controversial scheme in the event of a global ICAO deal.
Salvatore Sciacchitano, executive secretary of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC, which is the European arm of ICAO) put the onus back onto the industry to stand up for itself. He explained that one of the reasons politicians may have such little sympathy for the corporate aviation market is that they do not understand it. He said that although associations are toiling hard “to dispel the perception that business aviation is simply the playground for a privileged elite, it is not one that you have entirely escaped, however unfair that might be.”