Meanwhile, UK Freedom of Information Act Requests Raise Privacy Concerns

August 29, 2011

The European Union appears willing to ease one restriction on operators impacted by its proposed emissions trading scheme (EU-ETS). The EU aviation authority, Eurocontrol, submitted draft legislation this month raising the threshold of carbon dioxide emissions for the “small emitters” category, a group that includes almost all business aviation operations within the EU.

In the revised draft to the ETS Monitoring and Reporting regulation announced August 24, Eurocontrol proposes raising that threshold from 10,000 metric tons of CO2 emitted per year, to 25,000 tons. The change would allow a greater number of operators to use a simplified system to calculate their emissions based on the previous year’s flight plan data.

“What we need is a one-step system, so you pay the support facility, and the facility provides your data that do not need to be verified again,” explains Belarmino Gonçalves Paradela, Manager of Technical Affairs for the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA).

While the proposed threshold wasn’t raised as high as EBAA had hoped for – Paradela notes the group had requested 50,000 to 100,000 tons – he believes it is a step in the right direction. “We are not against the ETS system,” he notes. “We only ask for a more adaptive system for small operators.

“The current tool is effective, but as it is a statistically based tool, it needs data to be precise,” Paradela adds. “Therefore, in comparison with direct monitoring, for individual flights, the system can overestimate or underestimate the emissions, but on average, the system is accurate.”

If enacted, the higher limit would not go into effect until 2013, meaning that – if the EU ETS goes into effect next year, as European regulators expect – operators will still need to submit their data for 2011 and 2012 in the current manner. Even with the higher limit, operators emitting more than one tons of CO2 annually would still have to report those emissions to the ETS support facility. Operators that fail to do so, or do not pay the required fees, would be subject to fines and, in the worst case scenario, confiscation of their aircraft.

Adding to the financial concerns of such a program are new misgivings about the privacy of operators reporting their data to the ETS support facility. Earlier this month, operators registered in the United Kingdom received word of two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking release of data tied to emissions data submitted under the ETS.

The first request aims to obtain certain information from operators’ emissions monitoring submitted to UK authorities. That data is extrapolated from an operator’s flight plan movements, so it could potentially be tied to specific flights, which raises privacy concerns.

The second request is for a list of operators that have signed up for an emissions “benchmarking” program, where operators monitor their own emissions towards earning free carbon credits. “That isn’t as much of a concern, since it’s only a list of users signed up for the program,” notes Scott O’Brien, Project Manager for NBAA’s Operations Service Group.

The UK Environment Agency has said before that information on non-commercial operators will not be released, meaning operators are likely exempt from the first FOIA request for now. NBAA has provided a sample letter for Members to complete, asking for continued limitations on the public release of ETS data. Review the Sample Response to UK FOIA Request.

Noting that the business aviation community is already at the forefront of implementing technologies that improve efficiency and reduce emissions, NBAA supports a global framework for implementation of a carbon emissions monitoring program, with targets developed by the United Nations and International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) over region-specific programs like the EU-ETS.

More information about the EU-ETS, and its potential impact on U.S. operators flying within EU member states, is available through NBAA’s online EU-ETS resource.