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Trading aviation emissions – Part 3: Australia outlines its position

The Government yesterday announced solidarity with a number of other countries opposing the EU’s move to include international aviation in its emission trading scheme. The motion was originally put forward by Nationals Leader Warren Truss who has been active in raising awareness on the issue. The Government supported Mr Truss’ motion. Two previous FlagPosts (this one and this one) outline why the EU's decision has been controversial and what reactions there have been. This FlagPost summarises Australia’s position and provides an update on international actions.

Australia stands…
The motion introduced by Mr Truss called on the Government to:
(a) use all political, diplomatic, and legal tools at its disposal to ensure that the European Union’s ETS is not applied to aircraft registered by Australia or the operators of those aircraft;

(b) should the European Union maintain the application of the European Union ETS to flight sectors outside Europe, immediately assess whether the European Union ETS is consistent with the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements and join any WTO challenge; and

(c) join in other appropriate international action to prevent the application of the European Union ETS to non-European Union airspace.
Mr Truss is concerned that ‘under the EU ETS Qantas will pay an extra $2.3 million in 2012 alone and that comes directly back to Australian passengers and tourists’. He has also suggested that ‘if Jetstar or Virgin Australia enter the European market in their own right, they will cop the full 100% ETS costs from day one’. However, this last statement seems to disregard Article 3f of the EU’s Aviation Directive, which allows new operators to apply for free allowances from a special reserve.

…behind the US and ICAO
The Government’s endorsement of Mr Truss’ motion is not the first time Australia has shown its views on the issue. Australia was present at an international meeting convened in Washington to discuss general opposition to the EU’s Aviation Directive. The Washington meeting took place within days of the passage by a U.S. Senate committee of a Bill to ‘prohibit operators of civil aircraft of the United States from participating in the European Union’s emissions trading scheme, and for other purposes.’

Organised by the U.S. State and Transportation departments, the meeting brought together 17 countries, including heavyweights Russia, India, and China. After banning its airlines from participating in the EU scheme, China (and India) missed the deadline for submitting aviation emissions data. The EU accorded the two nations a one-month extension, but the Chinese response was to threaten counter-measures, such as impounding European aircrafts, if the EU took punitive action against Chinese airlines. Russia’s recent action to refuse requests by some European airlines for additional use of Siberian air space has been seen as a form of retaliation, although the European Commission denied that suggestion. Interestingly, Canada was also at the meeting, despite having recently announced a plan to reduce its own aviation greenhouse gas emissions by two per cent annually. 

All participants at the meeting agreed that the best forum for debating, resolving, and establishing rules on the problem of aviation emissions was the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). ICAO has been working through the issue but does not expect to propose a solution before March 2013. However, the EU continues to press for a resolution before the end of 2012.