The dirtiest airlines in the EU received hundreds of millions in emission rights for free – Knack – News, opinion and interpretation

The ten most polluting airlines in Europe received EUR 683 million in free emission rights last year. This is evident from publicly available data, analyzed by the mobility think tank Transport & Environment.

European emissions trading (ETS) is based on the “polluter pays” principle: polluting industries have to pay for their emissions, so that they are encouraged to reduce their emissions. Companies are imposed an annual maximum emission limit, which is slightly lower each year. Companies must also purchase so-called emission rights, depending on their climate impact.

System Errors

But there are gaps in the system. To prevent companies from moving to countries that have less strict climate requirements, many companies receive their emission rights for free. Commercial aviation is also covered by the ETS directive, but the sector will benefit from huge exemptions until 2025. Airlines get about 85 percent of those allowances for free, only 15 percent are auctioned. In this way, the ten largest polluters in European aviation received a joint 683 million euros in free emission rights last year.

All companies covered by the ETS Directive must also report their emissions from the previous year. But airlines only have to report the emissions of flights within Europe. As a result, the majority of their emissions – more than 60 percent according to T&E – are not included in the emissions trading system.

“The EU claims to be a global leader in emissions trading, but has underestimated and over-subsidised most of its aviation emissions for too long,” said Andrew Murphy, the aviation expert at Transport & Environment (T&E). “As a result, the aviation industry has avoided paying its climate costs. These free rights are outdated, given the climate crisis we are facing. The EU must end the privileges for aviation.”

phasing out

Recently, the EU decided to phase out the free emission rights every year, so that they would disappear by 2026. But that’s too late, says T&E. According to the analysis, four of the ten most polluting companies – Lufthansa, easyJet, Air France and SAS – received even more allowances last year than they emitted. They can keep these to emit more in the coming years.

Some companies are also actively trying to further hollow out the emissions trading system, according to the researchers. For example, Air France, the fourth most polluting carrier and recipient of 79 million euros in free allowances, is pushing for a delay of at least three years for the phasing out of free allowances.

“The EU’s aviation climate packages are not strict enough,” concludes Murphy. “The pandemic presented a unique opportunity to reduce the growth of the aviation sector and for a green rebuild. But none of that happened.”

European emissions trading (ETS) is based on the “polluter pays” principle: polluting industries have to pay for their emissions, so that they are encouraged to reduce their emissions. Companies are imposed an annual maximum emission limit, which is slightly lower each year. Companies also have to purchase so-called emission rights, based on their climate impact. System errorsBut there are gaps in the system. To prevent companies from moving to countries that have less strict climate requirements, many companies receive their emission rights for free. Commercial aviation is also covered by the ETS directive, but the sector will benefit from huge exemptions until 2025. Airlines get about 85 percent of those allowances for free, only 15 percent are auctioned. In this way, the ten largest polluters in European aviation received a joint 683 million euros in free emission rights last year. All companies that fall under the ETS directive must also report their emissions from the previous year. But airlines only have to report the emissions of flights within Europe. As a result, the bulk of their emissions – more than 60 percent according to T&E – are not included in the emissions trading scheme.” The EU claims to be a world leader in emissions trading, but has underestimated and over-subsidized most of its aviation emissions for too long said Andrew Murphy, the aviation expert at Transport & Environment (T&E). “As a result, the aviation industry has avoided paying its climate costs. These free rights are no longer appropriate, given the climate crisis we are facing. The EU must end the privileges for aviation.”PhasedownThe EU recently decided to phase out the free allowances annually, so that they would be gone by 2026. But that’s too late, says T&E. According to the analysis, four of the ten most polluting companies – Lufthansa, easyJet, Air France and SAS – received even more allowances last year than they emitted. They can keep this to emit more in the coming years. Some companies are also actively trying to further hollow out the emissions trading system, according to the researchers. For example, Air France, the fourth most polluting carrier and recipient of 79 million euros in free allowances, is pushing for a delay of at least three years for the phasing out of free allowances. “The EU climate packages for aviation are not strict enough”, Murphy decides. “The pandemic presented a unique opportunity to reduce the growth of the aviation sector and for a green rebuild. But none of that happened.”

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