EU extends deadline for ETS compliance plans

 - December 28, 2009, 5:54 AM

The European Union (EU) plans to issue a new list of operators who are subject to its emissions trading scheme (ETS) in a bid to dispel the confusion caused by last August’s publication of an initial list that contained inaccurate and baffling information. The new list will appear next month, and business aircraft operators hope it will give a more complete picture as to which of them are subject to ETS requirements and to which national authority in one of the 27 EU member states they are accountable.

Sources close to several of the national authorities have indicated to AIN that hundreds of smaller operators failed to meet last fall’s deadlines for registering their plans for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of carbon emissions. However, the UK Environment Agency, which has one of the largest numbers of operators to manage, said that it had approved MRV plans for operators who collectively account for 98 percent of total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in its portfolio. This confirms the perception that most of the operators who have not registered for ETS are small operators, mostly from the business aviation community.

In theory, operators who have not registered MRV plans are subject to fines of up to $8,000 or so, plus $800 per day for each day they are late in filing. On this basis, an operator who missed the Aug. 31, 2009, deadline would have greeted the new year liable for more than $100,000 in fines.

However, in practice, the European authorities appear to be holding off on using fines to enforce ETS compliance. At a recent conference for so-called small emitters held by UK authorities in Washington, D.C., officials indicated that they want to allow more time for remaining operators to register and are inclined to achieve this with carrots rather than sticks.

Once the new EU list of operators is published next month, operators will have a further eight weeks to implement plans to monitor, report and verify emissions. In fact, last month, the EC unexpectedly issued a preliminary version of this list, apparently to give the operators concerned a bit more time to respond to the requirement.

The full ETS requirement to monitor, report and verify emissions, and then buy credits to cover these emissions, does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2012. On January 1 this year a voluntary benchmarking exercise begins and those who take part will be rewarded with an allowance of free credits based on a distance to payload ratio (calculated in terms of metric tons/kilometers).

However, effective this month, all listed operators have to begin monitoring their CO2 emissions–regardless of whether they also take part in the voluntary benchmarking. And beginning in this year’s last quarter, operators will also have to submit independently verified reports of their emissions.

ETS: Easier than It Seems

Flight planning and support group Universal Weather & Aviation has introduced complimentary ETS assistance for operators. Adam Hartley, the group’s supervisor for regulatory services, told AIN that the MRV process is not as difficult as some operators have imagined. At the same time, he said that almost every day he encounters a business aviation operator that is still completely unaware of ETS and struggling to come to terms with what is required.

“We are advising operators to take part in the benchmarking because the [carbon] credits they will get could cover between 3 and 10 percent of their total operations for every year up to 2020,” Hartley said. Metric ton/kilometers have to be calculated by the Vincenty formula, which uses the Great Circle distance flown plus 95 km times the aircraft payload.

Carbon credits currently cost approximately €14 ($20) and each credit covers a metric ton of CO2, which is roughly equivalent to 1,100 pounds of fuel burned. This rate might well rise with the increased demand from aircraft operators who will soon enter the market.

According to Hartley, Universal can provide its clients with all the flight data they need to easily monitor and report their emissions, either online or recorded on each flight plan it prepares for an operator. The company has created a dedicated ETS Web site––and has filled this with tools for dealing with ETS tasks. It will publish the new ETS operators list at this site next month. Universal has also developed a simple template to help operators register MRV plans “in just a few hours.”

“This just isn’t as scary as it seems,” Hartley told AIN. He said that ETS consultants are “scaring” operators about the degree of complexity involved and the possibility of fines. “This task can be managed in-house,” said Hartley. “Operators are monitoring this data anyway [through their flight planning processes] and it’s just a question of putting the data in the right format.”

However, operators will still have to pay for independent verification of their emission reports, and right now this is a problem: to date EU officials have failed to approve a single independent verification contractor or to confirm a process for verifying the verifiers. Independent verifiers will need to be approved no later than this year’s third quarter, and Universal itself is looking into the possibility of becoming one.

Meanwhile, ETS Aviation, a private company that helps operators with ETS compliance, has said that the air transport sector is facing chaos this year because of a widespread failure to complete MRV plans and prepare for implementation of the scheme. According to ETS managing director David Savile, many operators have failed to register MRV plans because they remain uncertain about how ETS will work. ETS Aviation is also preparing to provide an independent verification service through its partner Verifly Online.   

GAMA, IBAC team to reduce CO2 emissions

Shortly before U.N.-sponsored climate talks began last month in Copenhagen, worldwide business aviation interests joined together to further mitigate the industry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions based on technology, infrastructure and operational improvements, alternative fuels and market-based measures.

Presented jointly by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) and its member associations, the program is consistent with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) proposal for global aviation sectoral management of targets and monitoring of emissions.

According to GAMA and IBAC, business aviation has established an excellent record of consistently improving fuel efficiency, delivering 40-percent improvement over the past 40 years. Business aviation’s worldwide carbon emissions account for approximately 2 percent of all aviation and .04 percent of global man-made carbon emissions.

Despite this “excellent record,” the two organizations said, the business aviation community has pledged to do even more by committing to the following targets:

• carbon-neutral growth by 2020;

• an improvement in fuel efficiency of an average of 2 percent per year from today until 2020; and

• a reduction in total carbon emissions of 50 percent by 2050 relative to 2005.

“Business aviation manufacturers and operators will put forth a sustained effort to meet these targets, but a strong partnership between industry and government is also absolutely necessary to achieve these goals,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce. “We look forward to working hand-in-hand with all stakeholders to meet this critical global challenge of emissions reduction even as we grow to meet expanding demand for transportation.”

Don Spruston, director general of IBAC, added, “Business aviation wants to be an integral part of a comprehensive, ambitious and fair worldwide action to mitigate emissions. As a global industry, we believe that ICAO should be granted sectoral responsibility to develop a simple and straightforward system to address aviation emissions worldwide.”

In October, a high-level meeting of ICAO member states representing 93 percent of global commercial air traffic, in cooperation with the air transport industry, reached agreement on further reducing aviation’s impact on climate change.

“Under ICAO’s leadership, aviation has produced the first, and to date the only, globally harmonized agreement designed to address climate change globally from a specific sector, and ICAO is in the best position to effectively and systematically address the impact of international aircraft emissions on climate change,” Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez, president of the ICAO Council, said at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen last month.

This agreement will be submitted in the fall to the ICAO Assembly, the plenary body of the 190 member states, as part of the continuous drive to facilitate internationally harmonized solutions.

In addition, an ICAO global framework on the development and implementation of alternative fuels, particularly drop-in fuels, for aviation worldwide was adopted in November. This development has positioned aviation to be the first sector to use sustainable alternative fuels on a global scale. –P.L.