Europe likely to approve ETS Support Facility

 - May 26, 2010, 7:02 AM
Eurocontrol appears to be close to finally approving the funding and development of its ETS Support Facility, which would give business aircraft operators a relatively cost-effective way of meeting their obligations to monitor, report and verify carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions under Europe’s emissions trading scheme (ETS). A May 6 meeting of the air traffic management agency’s air navigation services board expressed support for the plan but deferred a final decision pending further negotiations to allay the concerns of Eurocontrol member state Ukraine. According to the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), these negotiations could be completed within a few weeks and it expects the ETS Support Facility to get the final go-ahead.

A spokesperson for Eurocontrol confirmed that a board proposal to extend the agency’s responsibilities into support for environmental policy was approved at the meeting. She added that a so-called “scrutiny reserve” by one Eurocontrol member state would be “clarified in the next few weeks.”

EBAA had indicated that if the ETS Support Facility is blocked it would be completely unworkable for so-called small emitters like bizav operators to comply with the complex requirements of ETS. In these circumstances, EBAA had said it could advise operators to withdraw cooperation from the program and, effectively, refuse to comply.

EBAA had been concerned that airlines would undermine Eurocontrol’s commitment to provide financial support for developing the facility on the grounds that they will not benefit from it. However, the airline opposition appears not to have been influential at the Eurocontrol board meeting.

The ETS Support Facility is effectively a tool that provides an easy way to calculate CO2 emissions and, since the data is drawn from Eurocontrol’s flight plan database, there should be no need to pay to have it independently verified. However, according to some emissions trading specialists, the facility alone may not meet all operators’ needs.

For example, ETS Aviation founder David Carlisle pointed out that the tool will not provide the data on the metric tons of CO2 emitted per kilometer flown that is required for operators to be able to claim their free allocation of carbon credits based on calculations made this year. Furthermore, he added that corporate accounting departments might not be content to approve payments for carbon credits based purely on Eurocontrol data on what their aircraft’s activity is without checking this information for themselves against the actual amount of fuel burned.

However, EBAA has indicated that many business aircraft operators emit such small volumes of CO2 that they will simply be looking for the least costly and quickest means of meeting their ETS obligations.

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 correct 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 limit.

Meanwhile, Universal Weather & Aviation is looking at introducing a new service to help operators to administer their ETS compliance. The company’s regulatory services supervisor, Adam Hartley, urged operators not to delay compliance with the ETS process despite the continuing uncertainty about exactly how some aspects of the system will be enforced.

The European Commission is due to publish next month yet another revised list of operators subject to ETS and the national authorities to which they have been assigned for compliance purposes. The revised list published earlier this year was still far from complete and riddled with errors, such as aircraft being assigned to flight-support companies such as Universal instead of their actual operator.