April 18, 2024

Green Blog: A Bipartisan Vote Against European Air Fines

Green: Politics

Approved unanimously on Saturday before Congress adjourned for a fall campaign hiatus, the Senate bill drew relatively little attention. It was the “European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011,” the latest attempt to exempt American airlines from paying fees imposed by the European Union to cover the greenhouse gases their planes emit while flying to and from European airports.

The House passed a somewhat tougher bill last October. Because the bills have some differences, the final version will have to be sorted out later when Congress resumes work after the November elections.

The measure, which drew bipartisan sponsorship, is the latest salvo in the tug-of-war over whether American air carriers should pay what is essentially a carbon tax for flights to and from Europe under the European Emissions Trading System, which the aviation sector became a part of on Jan. 1. The regulatory framework had already applied to most other industries, including electricity providers and cement makers.

The Senate version of the bill, although more diplomatic than the House version, essentially gives the secretary of transportation the authority to tell airlines that they should not comply with Europe’s laws on emissions payments if he deems disobedience to be in the public interest.

The lawmakers argue that the American airlines should not pay the fines as a matter of national sovereignty, since some of the carbon dioxide emitted during the flights to and from Europe is emitted in United States or international airspace. Instead they favor a global approach to addressing fast-rising airline emissions, perhaps under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

That body has been working on a policy to address those emissions for several years now, and the European Union says it has been too slow to act. The international agency’s next major assembly does not convene until September of next year.

China and India have also objected to Europe’s new rules, even threatening in some cases to limit European airlines’ right to traverse their airspace in retaliation.

Annie Petsonk of the Environmental Defense Fund has an interesting post detailing the state of play on the issue.

Article source: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/27/a-bipartisan-vote-against-european-air-fines/?partner=rss&emc=rss