Aviation emissions: MEPs reach deal with Council  

  • CO2 emissions from intercontinental flights to stay out of EU Emission Trading System until December 2023
  • Exception for intercontinental flights was due to expire at the end of this year
  • Safeguard measures in the event of ”hard Brexit”

Airlines will remain exempt from paying for CO2 emissions from intercontinental flights until December 2023.

The legislation, informally agreed on Wednesday evening by Parliament and Council negotiators, will prolong the exemption for intercontinental flights until 31 December 2023, when the first phase of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)’s Carbon Reduction and Offsetting Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) scheme will kick in. This will prevent  legal gaps, as the exemption was due to expire at the end of this year.


MEPs ensured that the European Commission will have to review the legislation with a view to including the CORSIA scheme  in the EU Emission Trading System (ETS), so intra-EU and intercontinental flights are covered by a single system.


They also ensured that more will be done to reduce emissions from intra-EU flights  by means of a “linear reduction factor” – a yearly reduction of emission permits placed on the EU carbon market.


Finally, the Parliament and Council negotiators also agreed on measures to protect the EU ETS system  in the event of UK allowances flooding the ETS market once the UK leaves the EU.




Lead MEP Julie Girling (ECR, UK) said: “I am pleased to have reached agreement last night on averting snapback. This will give time for CORSIA to take shape and will bring the aviation sector more in line with others covered by the EU ETS. The European Parliament will also use this time to ensure that the details of the scheme deliver the climate benefits that we need”.


Next steps


Once endorsed by the EU ambassadors, the text will be put to a vote in the Environment committee and in plenary session, before its final adoption by EU member states.


Quick facts


Aviation accounts for approximately 2.1% of global CO2 emissions, and intercontinental flights account for around 1.3%. ICAO projections suggest that growth in air traffic will mean that CO2 emissions in 2050 are seven to ten times higher than in 1990. Within the EU, direct CO2 emissions from aviation account for about 3% of total emissions.


The EU was the world’s first region to address CO2 emissions from international aviation, by including aviation in the EU ETS, with effect from 1 January 2012. However, the USA and other nations opposed the inclusion of intercontinental flights. 


The application of the ETS to intercontinental flights was temporarily suspended, until the end of 2016, to allow the ICAO to develop global emission-reduction measures and avoid conflicts with international trading partners.


In October 2016, the ICAO approved the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) scheme, which is to take effect in 2021. In February 2017, the EU Commission proposed a regulation to prolong the exemption for intercontinental flights, gradually reduce the number of aviation CO2 allowances from 2021 onwards, and prepare to implement the ICAO scheme.