U.S. urges EU to reconsider airline emissions law

* Clinton, LaHood: EU law is “wrong way” to reduce emissions

* Say EU has ignored strong legal and policy objections

* Say U.S. prepared to take action, do not give more detail

Dec 19 (Reuters) – The Obama administration is stepping up pressure on the European Union by strongly urging it to reconsider a pending law that would charge airlines, including U.S. carriers, for emissions.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a Dec. 16 letter to European officials that the directive, due to take effect in January, is the “wrong way to achieve” a reduction in greenhouse gas pollution from jet engines.

The two said the United States was prepared to take unspecified action if the measure was not halted or suspended.

Clinton and LaHood said the EU has ignored “strong legal and policy objections” by the United States, China, India and more than three dozen other countries to the requirement that airlines join an emissions trading program and buy permits to offset carbon pollution from jetliners operating in, or to and from, Europe.

Carriers forcefully oppose the measure, saying compliance would cut deeply into their bottom line at a time when the rocky global economy has narrowed profit margins and has hurt plans to invest in more environmentally friendly technology.

Airlines are awaiting a European Court of Justice ruling as early as Tuesday in a lawsuit they brought over the matter. In October, an adviser to Europe’s highest court said the EU measure was within the law.

The U.S. House of Representatives applied additional pressure by approving a proposal in October to try to exclude American carriers from the plan. A similar bill was proposed in the U.S. Senate.

U.S. congressional action and similar steps taken or contemplated by other nations have triggered concern the airline disagreement could spark trade disputes as other environmental measures have done.

Clinton and LaHood threatened “to take appropriate action” if Europe proceeds, but did not specify what that might involve.

“We strongly urge the EU and its member states within their respective competences to reconsider this current course; halt or, at a minimum, delay or suspend application of this directive,” the U.S. officials wrote.

The Obama administration said Europe’s suggestion of possibly offering partial exemptions is inadequate, and urged the EU to “reengage with the rest of the world” to negotiate “a way forward” through the United Nations.
source: Reuters