European Airlines, Airports Call For Changes To Climate Legislation

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
Credit: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

PARIS—A group of European airlines and airports has called for changes to the European Commission’s “Fit for 55” emissions reduction legislation package, saying that the rules as they stand risk making them less competitive compared to their non-EU rivals.  

The industry players want changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and the Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) mandate, which are key parts of the broader Fit for 55 legislation package. The European Commission presented the package in July 2021 with the aim of mapping out the steps needed to achieve the overarching goal of reducing carbon emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030.  

The coalition of airlines and airports says it welcomes the Fit for 55 package and is committed to achieving net-zero emissions in 2050 but insists that changes will be necessary.  

The Jan. 24 statement is signed by “The Aviation Alliance Fit for 55,” which consists of Air Dolomiti, Air Europa, Air France-KLM, Austrian, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Eurowings, ITA Airways, Lufthansa, SAS, SWISS, Aena, Aeroporti di Roma, Fraport, Groupe ADP, Isavia, Munich Airport, Schiphol Group and Vienna International Airport.  

Scrutiny of the aviation sector’s contribution to climate change has been growing in recent years, and in February 2021 the industry set out its own plan for achieving net zero emissions by 2050, “Destination 2050.”  

The alliance warns that the current Fit for 55 proposals increase the risk of carbon leakage—the transferal of activities to a country or region with less stringent emissions laws—which leads eventually to an increase in emissions.  

“Airlines and airports globally have committed to net-zero emissions in 2050,” the alliance said. “At the same time, our industry is fiercely competitive and international by default, and current environmental and social standards have already skewed the level playing field. Hence, we are deeply concerned that the Fit for 55 legislative proposals in their current form would reinforce the risk of carbon leakage, unless adjustments are made.” 

The alliance says the ReFuelEU Aviation proposal applies to all routings from European airports, including long-haul flights. But for routings via hub airports outside of the EU, it applies only for traffic for the first leg to the non-European airport, not for the following leg to the final destination. “The result is an incentive to itineraries connecting through non-EU hubs,” the alliance said. The group also notes that the proposed revision of the ETS does not take into account that intra-EU-feeder traffic falls within the scope of the legislation while feeder traffic via non-EU-hubs does not. 

In order to ramp up the SAF market without carbon leakage, precautions need to be taken, the alliance said. One option is to enable EU member states to establish a mechanism to bridge the price gap between fossil fuel and SAF for extra-EU traffic.  

A second option, according to the alliance, would be to introduce an adjustment mechanism for all passengers departing from the EU and transferring at a non-EU-hub, in order to contribute to the SAF mandate.  

To prevent carbon leakage, the legislation should ensure the financial equality of passengers transferring in the EU to passengers transferring at hubs outside the EU, the alliance said. It also suggested that the revenues of certificate trading should be reinvested in the ramp-up of SAF.  

More broadly, the alliance called on European member states and the ICAO General Assembly to support a worldwide SAF blending mandate, which it said would “constitute a huge step towards net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.”   

The alliance also spoke out against a kerosene tax, described as “not in fact a decarbonizing solution,” arguing that it would have a negative impact on Europe’s air transport sector. “Therefore, the strategy towards achieving the goals of the package should not be based on a kerosene tax but by ensuring the efficient implementation of the rest of its elements,” the alliance said.  

The airlines and airports said its proposals to amend the Fit for 55 legislation are interlinked and would require a holistic approach. “If not properly addressed they would result in carbon leakage for a substantial part of extra-EU long-haul traffic, the possible deterioration of European connectivity, and a loss of billions in revenues for EU airlines and airports.”

Helen Massy-Beresford

Based in Paris, Helen Massy-Beresford covers European and Middle Eastern airlines, the European Commission’s air transport policy and the air cargo industry for Aviation Week & Space Technology and Aviation Daily.


1 Comment
The proposal makes sense and the European Commission as well as ICAO should support the effort by making the necessary regulatory changes.