The European Union reached an agreement early on Wednesday on a law to increase the cost airlines must pay for their carbon dioxide emissions, adding pressure on the sector to move away from fossil fuels.
Currently, airline companies flying within Europe have to obtain permits from the EU carbon market to cover their carbon dioxide emissions, but the bloc grants them most of those permits for free.
This situation will change with the law agreed by negotiators from EU countries and the European Parliament, which will phase out those free permits by 2026, sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters.
In this way, airlines will have to pay for their CO2 emission permits, which will be an economic incentive for them to pollute less.
A much smaller number of free CO2 permits will be made available to airlines using sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) to compensate them in part for the price difference between SAFs and kerosene, a much cheaper fossil fuel, the sources said.
So far, the EU has limited its carbon market to emissions from intra-EU flights, but negotiators agreed that Brussels will assess in 2026 whether the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) CO2 emissions compensation system for international flights is on track to reach the goal of net zero emissions by 2050 and, if not, the EU will propose to expand its carbon market to cover emissions from all outbound flights.
Climate advocates lamented that emissions from international flights have not been incorporated into the carbon market sooner.
“Average European families will continue to pay much more for their CO2 emissions than long-distance frequent travellers. We are about to lose another decade of climate inaction,” said Jo Dardenne, aviation director at the nonprofit group Transport and Environment.
EU countries and the European Parliament must formally approve the law before it comes into force.