Analysis by the Commission shows that 46% of 2019 emissions were covered by free allocations of allowances to aircraft operators. With IATA forecasting a potential 55% fall in total 2020 European revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) as a result of Covid-19, many airlines may not need to buy any allowances in 2020.
According to the Commission, 500 aircraft operators replied and complied with the EU ETS in 2019, including more than 100 commercial aircraft operators based outside the EU that operate flights within the European Economic Area. It said compliance was very high, despite the difficulties of reporting verified emissions and surrendering allowances during the Covid-19 crisis, with non-compliant operators being typically small or who had ceased operating.
Verified GHG emissions from stationary installations, such as power plants and manufacturing, reduced considerably in 2019. This meant Europe’s biggest airline in terms of passenger numbers, Ryanair, which had become the first airline to join the top 10 of highest EU emitters in 2018, climbed the table in 2019. Taken from EU Transaction Log data, Ryanair’s verified emissions in 2019 amounted to 10.45 million t, an increase of 5.8% over the previous year and making up more than 15% of all aviation emissions covered by the EU ETS.
The Brussels, Belgium-based NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) said aviation EU ETS emissions have grown by 28% since 2013, whereas the remaining other sectors had declined by 20%. “Airline emissions continued their upward trajectory while other sectors continued to decarbonise,” commented Andrew Murphy, Aviation Director at T&E. “That trend will resume post-crisis unless governments act now to rein in their pollution.” Speaking at a recent press conference, Germany’s environment minister agreed this was not the right time to be imposing green conditions on bailouts for airlines, which required quick and targeted help, but added that in the post-Covid-19 recovery phase there would be “a compass of climate action and social progress” aligned with the Paris Agreement and climate neutrality objectives.
Answering a question over bailout linkage at a virtual evidence session of the UK House of Commons’ transport committee yesterday, Tim Alderslade, CEO of trade body Airlines UK, said: “We don't support any environmental conditions as the UK aviation industry has already committed to net zero emissions by 2050, which is in line with government targets. A roadmap has been set out which shows the way we can achieve this. We need support from government to keep our aviation system alive and if we have anything like the growth that we were projecting before this crisis then we will deliver net zero emissions – that is our commitment.”
In a recent letter to the UK Prime Minister, the government’s independent advisory Committee on Climate Change set out key principles on how climate policy could play a part in a resilient post-Covid recovery. It argues that many sectors do not currently bear the full costs of emitting GHG emissions and recommends revenues could be boosted by setting or raising carbon prices, with low global oil prices providing an opportunity without hurting consumers. Many aviation industry insiders do not see a recovery to pre-pandemic levels for at least two to three years. Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury goes further and predicts it could be as long as five years, calling the crisis the gravest ever facing the aerospace sector.