Airlines to pay for their CO2 emission in Europe by 2026

Airlines should pay for all of their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Europe from 2026, a year earlier than initially planned by the EU, according to an early draft of the European Parliament’s position on the policy.

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The European Union is overhauling its climate policies to achieve a goal of cutting net emissions by 55 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels. The European Commission says all sectors must contribute to the target, including aviation, which makes up roughly 4 percent of EU CO2 emissions.

The Commission proposed last summer that airlines stop getting free CO2 permits under the EU carbon market by 2027. An early draft of the European Parliament’s amendments to that proposal would pull forward that date to 2026.

From 2024, airlines would lose 33.3 percent of their free CO2 permits yearly, rather than the 25 percent proposed by the Commission, the draft said.

That would mean an extra 12 million CO2 permits are sold into the carbon market for polluters to buy. According to the lead lawmaker on the policy, Sunčana Glavak (EPP) from Croatia, airlines currently get most of their carbon permits - more than 80 percent - for free.

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Why airlines should lose their free CO2 permits

The Croatian lawmaker said airlines lack solutions to quickly cut their emissions, and proposed that an EU innovation fund should help develop technologies to cut the sector’s emissions, including sustainable fuels and cleaner engines.

Emissions from flights within Europe are covered by the EU carbon market, but flights to and from the EU are not. Those international trips are covered by a CO2 offsetting scheme set up by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which becomes mandatory for countries in 2027.

The EP’s draft report said that the EU should try to strengthen that scheme, which has been criticised by some countries and campaigners as unlikely to curb emissions. If ICAO’s measures fall short of the EU’s climate goals, “other carbon mitigation options should be put in place,” the report said.