Aviation and the lack of an EU policy to reduce emissions

Within the EU, greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation have more than doubled since 1990. CO2 emissions have increased by about 80% between 1990 and 2014. They are forecast to grow by a further 45% between 2014 and 2035. The number of flights has increased by 80% between 1990 and 2014. They are forecast to grow by a further 45% between 2014 and 2035. A similar pattern is seen for tonnes of air cargo which are up about 30% from 2005 to 2014, but although the number of all-cargo flights has declined by 4% over the same period. In the light of this, one would expect that the reduction of aviation emissions would be a priority issue for the EU, that does not appear to be the case.


“Direct emissions from aviation account for about 3% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions and more than 2% of global emissionsIf global aviation was a country, it would rank in the top 10 emitters.  

By 2020, global international aviation emissions are projected to be around 70% higher than in 2005 and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) forecasts that by 2050 they could grow by a further 300-700%.

Under the EU ETS, all airlines operating in Europe, European and non-European alike, are required to monitor, report and verify their emissions, and to surrender allowances against those emissions. They receive tradeable allowances covering a certain level of emissions from their flights per year.

In light of the adoption of a Resolution by the 2016 ICAO Assembly on the global measure , the EU has decided to maintain the geographic scope of the EU ETS limited to intra-EEA flights from 2017 onwards. The EU ETS for aviation will be subject to a new review in the light of the international developments related to the operationalisation of CORSIA. The next review should consider how to implement the global measure in Union law through a revision of the EU ETS legislation. In the absence of a new amendment, the EU ETS would revert back to its original full scope from 2024.

During the period 2021-2035, and based on expected participation, the scheme is estimated to offset around 80% of the emissions above 2020 levels. This is because participation in the first phases is voluntary for states, and there are exemptions for those with low aviation activity. All EU countries will join the scheme from the start.” EU “Reducing Emissions from Aviation”

What this policy ignores is that if aviation emissions are stabilised at 2020 levels in a situation where other emissions are reducing to zero by 2050, then inevitably aviation becomes an increasing proportion of global emissions as other sector emissions are reduced more. One wonders why would this be acceptable to the EU, and furthermore why the base line  for aviation emissions is 2020. It is 1990 for other sector emissions, and this baseline for aviation is 70% higher than the aviation emissions in 1990? The question has to be asked, how did this come about, and why? Something is not right.

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