EU Transport Commissioner warns US that its air carriers must join a carbon trading scheme or face EU curbs
Jacques Barrot, EU Transport Commissioner
Thu 20 Mar 2008 – In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Jacques Barrot, the European Union’s Transport Commissioner, said that as part of second-phase negotiations with the US on the ‘open skies’ agreement, he would be demanding US airlines join the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) or an equivalent US system.
The ultimatum comes just as the liberalizing agreement signed a year ago comes into effect later this month, which lifts limits on flights between the US and Europe. The European Commission is in the process of drawing up the final details over the inclusion of aviation into the EU ETS from, in all likelihood, 2012 and it will affect all carriers operating in or out of the 27-member EU countries. The US Government has so far refused to agree to the proposal.
Discussions with the US Department of Transportation on the second phase of ‘open skies’ are due to begin in May and Barrot told the newspaper that the EU had the power to withdraw flying rights and reduce the number of flights from 2012 if a deal is not reached. However, after talking with a member of the US Congress Environment Committee, he believed such a deal will be possible once the Bush administration ends as “attitudes are changing”.
Europe’s environment ministers, the European Commission and the European Parliament are all of one mind with European airlines that there must be a ‘level playing field’ when aviation joins the EU ETS. Under the scheme, airlines will be required to buy carbon credits to offset emissions, the costs of which are likely to be passed on to customers in higher fares. If foreign airlines were excluded from the ETS they would then enjoy a competitive advantage over their European rivals.
The EU had hoped that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) would have come up with proposals of its own for a global emissions trading system, but it is not just the US who have objections and an international agreement is proving elusive.
However, ICAO has just announced that it is to hold an ‘Aviation and Carbon Markets’ workshop at its Montreal headquarters on June 18-19 “to explore possible ways of including international civil aviation in a global carbon market”. Details can be found at www.icao.int/2008WACM/.