The ETS 

The European Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) was launched in 2005 by the directive 2003/87/EC. The EU ETS works as a cap and trade system by setting a price on GHG emissions. The EU ETS is an instrument implemented in the 28 Member States of the EU and in 3 EEA-EFTA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). For a general overview of EU ETS, please consult this document developed by the European Commission.


Scope of the EU ETS for aircraft operators included

The directive ETS

Since 2012 the emission from all flights, to and within European Economic Area (EEA) - the 28 EU Member States, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway - are included in the EU Emissions Trading System. This legislation is applicable to all airlines whatever they are European or non European. However since the beginning the Annex I of ETS directive specifically excludes the activities mentioned here:

  1. flights performed exclusively for the transport, on official mission, of a reigning Monarch and his immediate family, Heads of State, Heads of Government and Government Ministers, of a country other than a Member State, where this is substantiated by an appropriate status indicator in the flight plan;
  2. military flights performed by military aircraft and customs and police flights;
  3. flights related to search and rescue, fire-fighting flights, humanitarian flights and emergency medical service flights authorised by the appropriate competent authority; 
  4. any flights performed exclusively under visual flight rules as defined in Annex 2 to the Chicago Convention;
  5. flights terminating at the aerodrome from which the aircraft has taken off and during which no intermediate landing has been made;
  6. AVtraining flights performed exclusively for the purpose of obtaining a licence, or a rating in the case of cockpit flight crew where this is substantiated by an appropriate remark in the flight plan provided that the flight does not serve for the transport of passengers and/or cargo or for the positioning or ferrying of the aircraft;
  7. flights performed exclusively for the purpose of scientific research or for the purpose of checking, testing or certifying aircraft or equipment whether airborne or ground-based;
  8. flights performed by aircraft with a certified maximum take-off mass of less than 5700 kg;
  9. flights performed in the framework of public service obligations imposed in accordance with Regulation (EEC) No 2408/92 on routes within outermost regions, as specified in Article 299(2) of the Treaty, or on routes where the capacity offered does not exceed 30000 seats per year; and
  10. flights which, but for this point, would fall within this activity, performed by a commercial air transport operator operating either: fewer than 243 flights per period for three consecutive four-month periods, or flights with total annual emissions lower than 10000 tonnes per year. Flights performed exclusively for the transport, on official mission, of a reigning Monarch and his immediate family, Heads of State, Heads of Government and Government Ministers, of a Member State may not be excluded under this point."

For more interpretation guidance on the annex, see the Commission’s decision (2009/450/EC) 

The objective of the EU ETS for fixed installations (-21% in 2020 compared to 2005) does not apply to aviation, rather since January 2013, the total quantity of allowances to be allocated to aircraft operators is equivalent to 95 % of the historical aviation emissions multiplied by the number of years in the period.


Following the progress in the negotiations at International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on a global market based measure for aviation, EU ETS requirements were amended twice:

  • First, through the stop the clock decision which exempted for the year 2012 flights to and from non European countries.
  • Secondly, through the 421/2014 regulation. For the years 2013 to 2016 the EU ETS covers only emission from flights within the EEA. From 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2016, all emissions from flights between an aerodrome located in an outermost region within the meaning of Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and an aerodrome located in another region of the EEA in each calendar year are also excluded;

These exemptions were also accompanied by other provisions for low emitters:

            • From 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2020, flights which, but for this point, would fall within this activity, performed by a non-commercial aircraft operator operating flights with total annual emissions lower than 1 000 tonnes per year” shall not be included in the activity that falls under the EU ETS directive. This paragraph has been added to the annex I of the EU ETS directive.
            • By way of derogation from Articles 3g, 12, 15 and 18a, where an aircraft operator has total annual emissions lower than 25 000 tonnes CO2, its emissions shall be considered to be verified emissions if determined by using the small emitters tool approved under Commission Regulation (EU) No 606/2010 (*) and populated by Eurocontrol with data from its ETS support facility. Member States may implement simplified procedures for non-commercial aircraft operators as long as such procedures provide no less accuracy than the small emitters tool provides. “

In October 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed on a Resolution for a global market-based measure to address CO2 emissions from international aviation as of 2021. The agreed Resolution sets out the objective and key design elements of the global scheme, as well as a roadmap for the completion of the work on implementing modalities. Following the results of the negotiations at the ICAO level, the European Commission proposed beginning of February to continue the current approach under the EU ETS for aviation beyond 2016. This proposal will now be considered by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

If the Commission's proposal is agreed by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, the scope of the new Regulation would be exactly the same as the Regulation covering 2013-16. In particular,

      • flights of commercial airlines of all nationalities that take off and land in an aerodrome in the European Economic Area (EEA) would be covered by the ETS;
      • flights that take off or land outside the EEA would be exempted;
      • flights between an aerodrome in an outermost region and an aerodrome outside the outermost region would be exempted;
      • flights within one outermost region would be covered;
      • flights between an aerodrome in the EEA and offshore installations of EEA countries that are outside territorial waters, such as oil and gas production or exploration platforms, would also be covered.

More information can be found here.

What are the consequences of being included in the EU ETS?

In order to facilitate the administration of the EU ETS, each year in February, the European Commission publishes an updated list containing aircraft operators and their respective administering Member state. To avoid double regulation, this list is based on two principles:

      • In the case of an aircraft operator with a valid operating licence granted by a Member State in accordance with the provisions of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2407/92 of 23 July 1992 on licensing of air carriers, the Member State which granted the operating licence in respect of that aircraft operator shall be the administering member state;
      • In all other cases, the Member State with the greatest estimated attributed aviation emissions from flights performed by that aircraft operator in the base year shall be the administering member state.

This list is a facilitative instrument and may contain inaccuracies. Therefore it is important to know that:

      • Even an aircraft operator appearing on the list is not included under the EU ETS if it performs only activities exempted according to Annex I to directive 2003/87/EC.
      • An aircraft operator not appearing on the list but performing activities under Annex I to directive 2003/87/EC falls under the EU ETS. 

The Commission also publishes a “prior compliance list” which provides information on aircraft operators (and most likely administering Member states) not yet included in the scheme but that might fall soon under.

Belgium has 2 competent authorities: the Walloon Region and the Flemish Region. Following a cooperation agreement, only one of these will be administering your company based on two criteria the number of aviation activities (landings and take-offs in an airport in their territory) and in case of equality the biggest C02 emissions coming from the aviation activities.

If you think you fall under the authority of the Walloon Region, please contact us.

All aircraft operators covered by the EU ETS are required to have an approved monitoring plan for annual emissions by 1st January 2010.

Each aircraft operator shall submit to the Walloon Air and Climate Agency an Annual Emissions Report (AEM report) by 2nd Thursday of March of the year following the emissions year. This AEM report must be submitted through the web-based application ETSWAP.

In the EU ETS 82% of the allowances are granted for free to aircraft operators, 15% are auctioned and the remaining 3% is held in a special reserve for new entrants or growing aircraft operator. If the aircraft operator wants to access free allowances, an approved ton-kilometre plan is required.

By the 30th April of each year, an aircraft operator must surrender allowances or credits equivalent to its emissions. The aircraft operator can use either: allowances (EUAs or AEUAs) or credits up to a defined percentage (CERs or ERUs).

Having an account in the European Registry is necessary to surrender allowances. It also allows the aircraft operator to sell or buy allowances to or from other operators, or to participate in the auctions set up by EEA Member States. To open an account with the Belgian National administrator, please visit this webpage:

The ETSWAP is the Walloon web based application used by the AWAC for monitoring and reporting obligations. To open account please contact the AWAC.

As a new entrant, formalities may differ according to the fact that you have an EU operator licence or not. For more information see the FAQ of the European commission on “historic aviation emissions and the inclusion of aviation in the EU's Emission Trading System (EU ETS)”, questions 44 & 45.



Walloon Air and Climate Agency

The Walloon Air and Climate Agency (AWAC) is one of the competent authorities in Belgium. You can either use the generic email address ( or contact directly François Verpoorten who is in charge of aviation in the ETS team. Just below is the post address of the Agency:

Agence wallonne de l'Air et du Climat,
Avenue Prince de Liège n° 7 Bte 2,

Belgian National Greenhouse Gas Registry

All information can be found on this website.

Accredited Verifiers

More information on accredited verifiers is available in this document.


To get an overview of the legislation:

      • At the European level click here (section 2. “système d’échange de quotas d’émissions”) or visit the Commission website.
      • At the Walloon level, click here (section 2. “système d’échange de quotas d’émissions”).
      • At the Flemish level, click here
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