US turns up the heat on Europe's Emissions Trading Scheme with diplomatic and industry objections
Kristen Silverberg, US Ambassador to the European Union
Thu 30 Oct 2008 – The US Ambassador to the European Union has today sent a letter to the European Commission reiterating US concerns over the inclusion of international civil aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The US threatens to take “appropriate measures” under international law if the EU “insists on taking unilateral action” over the issue. In a speech today in Brussels, James C. May, the President and CEO of the Air Transport Association of America (ATA), which represents the bulk of US airlines, said the ETS was contrary to international law and a bad policy.
The letter from Ambassador Kristen Silverberg to Jos Delbeke, Acting Director-General of the Commission’s Environment DG, says the US considers the “unilateral, compulsory application to foreign carriers operating to and from EU airports, without the consent of their governments, is inconsistent with the Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago Convention) and the US-EU Air Transport Agreement.”
The US agrees, it says, on the need to address aviation’s contribution to climate change but points to “significant” achievements by the US aviation industry in reducing its carbon footprint. Since 2000, it explains, carbon emissions from US commercial aviation have been cut by over 70 million tons while flying 20% more passenger miles and 30% more cargo miles. The US believes that a combination of operational improvements, new technologies and sustainable alternative fuels “promises to sustain and even exceed those results”.
The letter continues: “European Union measures taken without the consent of its international partners threatens global cooperation on climate change in the aviation sector. The United States urges the European Union to engage constructively with its partners to find real solutions.”
It concludes: “If the European Union insists on moving forward unilaterally, the United States reserves its right to take the appropriate measures in response under international law.”
Speaking at the European Aviation Club in Brussels, said last week’s final approval of the EU legislation adding aviation to the ETS was opposed by the United States and “many other countries”, and violated international law and reversed the progress being made with on-going fuel-efficiency and environmental innovations.
The ATA quotes the Association of European Airlines’ estimates that the European ETS would impose an annual cost to airlines of $6.7 billion a year, “taking away funds that would otherwise go to ongoing environmental improvements”.
May also criticized the “proliferation” of new aviation taxes and charges within the EU, saying they were counterproductive to the industry’s ongoing environmental progress. “Masquerading under the banner of supposedly ‘protecting’ the environment, these measures threaten to stifle the growth of the industry, compromise our environmental progress and, ultimately, raise prices for consumers, leaving them to take alternative, less safe, higher emitting modes of transportation.”
Governments must recognize, he insisted, that policies which siphon money out of aviation are counterproductive and airlines should not be prevented from reinvesting in emissions-reducing technologies. He concluded by urging Europe and the world to keep away from unilateral action as “great challenges are best addressed collectively”.