Cutting emissions from planes and ships: EU actions explained

Despite only accounting for about 8% of the EU’s total emissions, emissions from aviation and shipping are increasing. In an effort to cut the EU’s total emissions 55% by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050, the EU has ambitious plans to counteract climate change. The legislative package called Fit for 55 aims to deliver the EU’s Green Deal’s objectives, includes proposals to reduce emissions from both sectors.

The EU has taken steps to reduce aviation emissions through its Emissions Trading System (ETS). It applies so-called cap and trade rules for the aviation sector where airlines are required to surrender emissions allowances to cover their emissions. However, to avoid putting EU companies at a disadvantage, the Emissions Trading System currently only applies to flights within the European Economic Area – which covers all EU countries as well as Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway – and most of the allowances are distributed to the airlines for free.

On 8 June 2022, Parliament voted in favour of a revision of the Emissions Trading System for aviation. To align greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the aviation sector with the Paris Agreement, MEPs call for the Emissions Trading System to apply to all flights departing from the European Economic Area, including flights landing outside the area.

Parliament wants to phase out free the allocations for aviation before 2025, two years ahead of the European Commission’s proposal. MEPs want to use 75% of the revenues generated from the auctioning of allowances for aviation to support innovation and new technologies.

It will now begin negotiations with EU countries on the final shape of the rules.