Switzerland does not agree with the European Commission’s unilateral decision to consider flights between the country and the EU as “intra-EU” and thus exclude them from the scope of stop-the-clock procedure of the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS) for aviation.

“Switzerland is negotiating with the EU on linking the respective ETS systems. The negotiations cover both, the stationary installations and aviation. As long as there is no agreement on this linking, Switzerland is a third country (outside of EU) and Switzerland should be treated accordingly,” a spokesman for the Mission of Switzerland to the EU tells Aviation Week.

The spokesman adds that Switzerland has raised the issue with the relevant authorities to “resolve the issue.” The matter was raised Nov. 30 at the last Swiss-EU joint committee of the civil aviation agreement, and Transport Minister Doris Leuthard also wrote to Connie Hedegaard, EU commissioner for climate action, to ask for an explanation. The rapporteur and chair of the European Parliament’s Environment (ENVI) and Transport (TRAN) committees also have been informed, the spokesman says.

In its legislative proposal, the Commission describes the geographical scope of the aviation EU ETS moratorium as “flights to or from aerodromes in countries outside the European Union that are not members of EFTA [European Free Trade Association, i.e. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland], dependencies and territories of EEA member states [European Economic Area, i.e. EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein] or countries having signed a treaty of accession with the Union [Croatia].”

Members of the TRAN committee last week queried why the EC determined that the EU ETS will continue to apply to intra-EFTA traffic, while only EFTA states that also are members of EEA have agreed to incorporate the aviation directive in their national legislation, i.e. Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway—but not Switzerland.

Legal Situation

In a separate article of the proposal, the Commission states that flights to and from airports outside of the EU “and areas with close economic connections to the Union and a shared commitment to tackle climate change” will be exempt from the EU ETS for 2012. The ENVI committee on Tuesday suggested that the question if flights from EU countries to Switzerland would be covered by the system or are subject to the current derogation “should be discussed at the highest possible level between the EU and Switzerland and respect the legal situation and friendly cooperation as well as the very constructive role that Switzerland took at ICAO.”

Switzerland is a special case, Elina Bardram, representing the EC’s directorate general for Climate Action, told the TRAN committee. “Switzerland shares the same ambitious environmental narrative with the EU, and we’re negotiating on linking our respective ETS systems. Those negotiations are expected to come to a good result. In that case and in the instance that Switzerland has not objected to be included in the EU ETS from the onset, it would be somewhat interesting from the EU side to suggest to extentd the derogation to Switzerland as well.”

“Switzerland is not against including civil aviation into its ETS, but the inclusion of Swiss aviation shall happen after the conclusion of a bilateral agreement on linking the ETS systems of Switzerland and the EU,” the spokesman for the Swiss mission stresses.

He adds that the inclusion of aviation into the Swiss ETS is part of the linking negotiations with the EU. An inclusion before an effective linking takes place is not possible because the Swiss ETS is too small to be able to absorb a large demand from the aviation sector, he notes.