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.


Originally the legislation was intended to apply to all flights from, to and within the European Economic Area (EEA). Following the progress in the negotiations at International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on a global market based measure for aviation and the adoption of a Resolution by the 2016 ICAO Assembly on the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation  (CORSIA), the EU ETS requirements were amended three times :

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

More information can be found here.

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

Knowing who is my European competent authority dealing with 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:

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

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.

Having a monitoring plan

All aircraft operators covered by the EU ETS are required to have an approved monitoring plan for annual emissions by 1st January 2010. However, aircraft operators shall not be required to submit monitoring plans setting out measures to monitor and report emissions in respect of flights which are subject to the derogations (extra EEA flights and flights to the outermost region see article 28a of the ETS directive)..

Obligation to report emission annually

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.

Entitlement to Free allocation

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. The last amendment had no impact on free allocation. In general aircraft operators would receive the same number of allowances as they did in 2016 for every year between 2017 and 2030. In the absence of a revision the number of free allowances will be reduced every year from 2021 in line with the linear reduction factor applicable to all other sectors in the EU ETS.

Obligation to surrender allowances or credits

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

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:

Obligation to open an account in the ETSWAP.

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

New Entrants

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: