“The closer to the deadline, the more nervous a lot of countries like the U.S., Russia, China and India were becoming. So they went out of their way to retaliate. It became a very difficult climate,” he says. “So the European Commission came up with this last-ditch attempt to reconcile.”
The “bottom line,” Gamba believes, is that “the commission is now in a predicament, as they are under the scrutiny of the European Parliament and the member states. They don't want an international battle—they want to avoid it at all costs. They are not eager to have a status quo ante imposed by September. What the Parliament only cares about is that the EU is respected as an international partner, and they don't like [the fact] that everyone is laughing at the commission.
“What they want is that aircraft be less polluting,” he went on. “They always said their goal has been to move toward a global standard, and because so little progress was made by ICAO 10 years ago, they came up with their own measure to, in effect, force ICAO to act. They have also maintained that if an international agreement were clinched, the ETS would be dropped, and the EU would then happily abide with the international agreement. That was always clear from the beginning.”
And, he notes, the imposition of ETS did accelerate action within ICAO since climate change is on the agenda for its assembly this fall.
Neither the derogation nor an ultimate sunset for the European ETS lets aviation off the hook in terms of reducing its contribution to carbon emissions (currently only 2% of global totals, but predicted to increase as airline fleets expand). To that end, ICAO has advanced a four-pillar strategy around which to wrap a global standard toward the goal of achieving a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions from aviation by 2050.
“We are supporting the ICAO process,” GAMA's Smith said, adding that “it is important that the industry as a whole support improving aviation's environmental performance and appropriate market-based measures. As manufacturers, we are responsible for one of the four ICAO pillars: technology improvements in engines, aerodynamics and avionics.”
The other three pillars are market-based measures: carbon trading; development and deployment of alternative aviation fuels; and infrastructure and operational improvements including the air-traffic management modernization programs underway in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.
“Market-based measures should be a temporary measure until the positive impacts of the other three pillars are fully deployed and have the planned effect on reducing emissions,” Smith continued.
For business aircraft operators, ETS compliance can be expensive. EBAA's Gamba says small operators can spend €50,000-100,000 ($65,000-139,000) annually just on additional administrative costs, exclusive of buying carbon credits. For large fleet operators such as NetJets and Jet Aviation, he notes, program compliance is markedly more costly.