Despite progress of US airline prohibition bill, Hedegaard confident United States will respect EU legislation on ETS
The ICAO Council Chamber
Tue 1 Nov 2011 – Just a week after the US House of Representatives passed the H.R. 2594 bill that prohibits US airlines from participating in the Aviation EU ETS, the EU’s Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said Europe was confident that the United States will in the end respect EU legislation “just as the EU respects US legislation and US lawmakers’ authority in US airports”. She said the bill was “unusual” and “a rather unorthodox course of action” in wanting to tell US airlines not to respect an EU law. Her comments came on the eve of discussions within the ICAO Council tomorrow of an anti-EU ETS paper submitted by 26 nations that urges Europe to exclude flights by non-EU carriers that fly to its airports from the emissions scheme. Meanwhile, European NGO Transport & Environment accuses the US FAA of drafting the Delhi Declaration that led to the ICAO paper and colluding with airline lobbyists.
Hedegaard pointed out in an article on her European Commission web page that given the global nature of the industry, airlines were required to meet certain rules that had international ramifications.
“As Congressmen who opposed the House bill pointed out, the United States itself requires international airlines to comply with a wide range of US laws when it comes to passenger, baggage and cargo security in order to do business in the US,” she said. “Other laws also require overseas ports to put in place certain security measures before cargo can be sent to the US.
“If the US wants to handle emissions from aviation differently, that is fine; our legislation clearly envisages that if a country outside the EU takes ‘equivalent measures’ to address aviation emissions then all incoming flights can be exempted from the EU system.”
Hedegaard said the EU had been forced to act because of the growth in carbon emissions from aviation and their contribution to global warming and climate change, pointing out that ICAO itself had estimated emissions increasing by up to 88% between 2005 and 2020, and by up to 700% by 2050. Despite work and pressure from the EU, she said, ICAO states had not agreed on a global solution to limit aviation emissions.
“No one has fought harder than the EU to find a global solution – and we are still trying to reach an agreement,” she claimed. “Faced with the urgent need to address climate change, the EU chose to go forward by bringing the aviation sector into our ETS while continuing to press for a global solution.
“Europe’s legislation is a key contribution to global climate action. We encourage others to join in our efforts.”
However, the “others” are thin on the ground at present and support from outside Europe is unlikely to be found in the ICAO Council chamber tomorrow when 26 states – including China, Russia, India, Brazil and the United States – present their paper to the Council’s 194th Session. An immediate outcome is not expected and a possible scenario is the setting up of a group to look at the issue and report back before the end of the Session, which concludes on November 18.
Although decisions by the Council do not carry legally-binding weight, an outcome could be a formal Article 84 dispute procedure, rare at ICAO and not enacted since an aircraft engine hushkitting ban by the EU was contested by the United Sates back in the 1980s and was eventually brought before ICAO for mediation.
Greeting Council delegates tomorrow morning will be activists from Avaaz, an internet-based international social issues lobby group with a membership claimed to be over 10 million from 193 countries. Over 4,500 members worldwide have so far signed an online message supporting the European position at ICAO.
Also ahead of the ICAO meeting, Transport & Environment (T&E), one of the NGOs that sided with the EU in its case brought by the US airlines over the EU ETS and recently heard by the European Court of Justice, has said the agreement signed by 26 countries in Delhi (not necessarily the same 26 that are presenting the ICAO paper) was drafted by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The ICAO 26 states call in their paper for the Council to “welcome and adopt” the so-called Delhi Declaration.
T&E points to a link between the FAA’s Assistant Administrator for Policy, International Affairs and Environment, Dr Julie Oettinger and the Delhi Declaration. Dr Oettinger, an international lawyer, previously worked for United Airlines, one of the airlines involved in the EU law suit, as its Managing Director of International and Regulatory Affairs.
“The developing world is being asked to fight a proxy war on behalf of American airlines who balk at the thought of paying the equivalent of 1 cent a litre tax on kerosene to fight climate change,” said T&E’s Bill Hemmings. “The aviation industry is sending its lawyers to work in Europe and inside the US government to fight climate change policy but it should be sending its engineers to work to make cleaner planes.”
Meanwhile, proposals to introduce the H.R. 2594 bill into the Senate could take place within weeks, say observers, and given the bipartisan support for the proposed legislation it could make quick progress.