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Aviation in the European Union (EU)

Emissions from aviation in the European Union are higher than the global average, representing about 3% of the bloc’s carbon footprint, or 14% of transport-related emissions.

The EU’s European Green Deal envisions slashing transport emissions by 90% by 2050, compared with 1990 levels. As aviation is the second largest emitter after road transport in the transportation sector, aviation will need to contribute significantly to this target.

Aviation has been part of the EU’s Emissions Trading System since 2012. At first, due to immense pressure from other countries and industry, only flights within the EU were covered by the EU ETS, which meant that some two-thirds of emissions from the European aviation sector were not included. In addition, for years, the EU ETS market was oversaturated with pollution permits and airlines received too many free allowances.

A decade later, during the 2022 reform of the EU ETS, the EU decided to expand the scheme to encompass long-haul flights departing from the European Union, while free pollution permits are due to be phased out by 2026. However, this would not occur until after 2026 and only if a European Commission assessment of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) finds that the UN scheme is failing to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

While this is less than Carbon Market Watch’s demand to include all incoming and outbound long-haul flights under the EU ETS, it is a step in the right direction. 

Carbon Market Watch also monitors the voluntary climate pledges and action of European airlines.

What is CMW doing about it?

When it comes to aviation in the EU, Carbon Market Watch focuses on:

  • Observing negotiations and campaigning at ICAO
  • Investigating the impact of the aviation sector’s climate policies
  • Researching and presenting recommendations to ICAO, governments and the aviation industry

European aviation must contribute its fair share to the EU’s climate targets

European aviation must contribute its fair share to the EU’s climate targets

What changes is CMW demanding?

Binding emissions reduction targets for airlines that are in line with the Paris Agreement

The inclusion of all long-haul flights entering or leaving the EU into the EU’s Emissions Trading System

Include aviation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The creation of effective global mechanisms for reducing airline emissions



A European flying from western Europe to New York would generate enough emissions as heating their home for an entire year

Flights within the European Economic Area (EEA) became part of the EU ETS in 2008 and will expand to cover long-haul flights departing from the EU in 2027

Contact our experts

Sam Van den plas
Policy Director


Eleanor Scott
Expert on EU Carbon Markets


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