Blog

27
jul

U.S. ups the pressure on European Union in airline row

WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS, July 26 (Reuters) – Washington will
ratchet up the pressure next week to find a global solution to a
bitter row over an EU law that makes airlines that use European
airports pay for carbon emissions.
In the U.S. Senate, the powerful commerce committee will
hold a vote on Tuesday on a bipartisan bill that would make it
illegal to comply with the EU law.
“We hope it will further signal to the EU that there
continues to be deep opposition in the U.S.,” said Nancy Young,
vice president of environmental affairs for lobby group Airlines
for America (A4A).
At the same time, the U.S. State Department and Department
of Transportation will hold a two-day meeting on Tuesday and
Wednesday to try to accelerate efforts within the U.N.’s
aviation body – the International Civil Aviation Organization
(ICAO) – to come up with a solution acceptable to all sides.

The meeting will bring together 17 non-EU nations opposed to
the EU law, which since the start of this year requires all
flights in or out of Europe to pay for their emissions, using
the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
U.S. sources said the meeting will take a different tack
from previous gatherings of ETS opponents, referred to as the
coalition of the unwilling, because rather than drawing up lists
of retaliatory threats, it is seeking an alternative way
forward.
“I choose to take the Americans at their word that they will
use this meeting to create constructive input to ICAO,” EU
Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told Reuters.
The European Commission has repeatedly said it only imposed
its law on all flights because more than a decade of ICAO talks
failed to deliver a global plan to cut carbon emissions.
Now, however, both sides are looking to the UN body to come
up with an alternative solution.
The Commission has said it would waive its requirements if
the ICAO can produce a global scheme to curb rising airline
emissions.
The ICAO has a window of a few months to achieve convincing
progress before tempers really fray when the EU begins
collecting, which is expected in April next year.
“There is a sense of urgency because airlines have to start
paying next April. We hope there will be a resolution that
becomes clear enough before then,” said Russ Bailey, a senior
attorney for the Air Line Pilots Association, a U.S. lobby
group.

MUST BE EFFECTIVE
Environmentalists underline that any global market-based
measures decided by ICAO must be as effective as the EU’s ETS,
which although weakened by an oversupply of tradeable emission
permits, has had an impact on reducing emissions in the sectors
it covers.
“It’s good they are actually talking rather than just
throwing stones at the Emissions Trading Scheme, but we’re
looking for a constructive discussion and a target which is
environmentally meaningful,” said Bill Hemmings, programme
manager at Transport & Environment campaign group. “The fact the
EU has been excluded has to be a red flag.”
Opposition to the EU imposition of the trading system on
airlines is one of the rare issues that has united both
political parties in the United States.
Republican Senator John Thune’s European Union Emissions
Trading Scheme Prohibition Act has the support of the commerce
committee’s Republican members, as well as some Democrats.
It is similar to draft law the House of Representatives
approved last year to shield U.S. airlines from paying for the
greenhouse gases they emit from flights in and out of Europe.
To become law, the draft legislation has to be adopted by
both the House and the Senate and then signed by Obama. If
passed it would put airlines in the impossible situation of
being in breach of either U.S. or of EU law.
So far U.S. airlines and most other carriers have met
preliminary EU requirements, although Chinese and Indian
airlines flouted a deadline to report emissions.
A spokesman said the European Commission was “following up
and engaging with both countries’ authorities.”
While governments have opposed the EU law on the grounds it
breaches sovereignty, the aviation industry has taken issue with
the extra financial burden on an industry battling economic
downturn.
In many cases, the cost – calculated at only around 2 euros
($2.42) per passenger for a flight from Beijing to Frankfurt,
for instance – has been passed on to customers.
The options under consideration at ICAO include using carbon
offsets, or credits earned by reducing emissions elsewhere, and
a new global ETS to regulate airline pollution.
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus said the EU
should not take a regional approach to solving global problems
such as climate change.
“A global issue needs a global solution. Regional action
does not address the issue properly and leads to distortion of
competition,” an Airbus spokesman told Reuters.
($1 = 0.8248 euros)