August 7, 2022

U.S. Asks E.U. for Emissions Exception for Airlines

BRUSSELS — The United States demanded Wednesday that the European Union exempt U.S. airlines from rules regulating greenhouse emissions, a move that makes more likely the prospect of a lengthy trans-Atlantic dispute.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, the E.U. Emissions Trading System will cover most international flights landing in and taking off from European airports. That will require some U.S. carriers, and carriers from other countries, to buy carbon permits to offset their emissions of carbon dioxide.

“We strongly objected to the inclusion of U.S. airlines” in the European system, an official in the administration of President Barack Obama said during a telephone briefing for reporters after talks with E.U. officials held in Oslo.

“We don’t feel that it’s appropriate for the European Union to apply its mechanism to all other countries,” said the official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks.

European officials stood firm Wednesday, saying that changes were not feasible because the law was passed two years ago with the backing of governments and the European Parliament.

“The E.U. made clear that we’ve no intention to change, withdraw or postpone this law,” said an E.U. official with direct knowledge of the talks. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks, which he said would continue later in the year.

The United States had taken a hard line against the plans during the administration of President George W. Bush. The latest message marked a toughening of the current administration’s public opposition to the law.

Opposition to the law has been led by the Air Transport Association of America and by three major airlines — United and Continental, which have merged, and American Airlines. They have gone to court to fight the rules as they apply in Britain.

A hearing will be held July 5 at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. A preliminary verdict could come before the end of this year.

Any verdict in favor of the U.S. airlines has the potential to undermine the initiative because E.U. regulators and European airlines say participation by airlines from outside the Union is critical.

The E.U. official said it could be possible to exempt incoming U.S. flights if the United States took “serious measures” to reduce emissions that would be considered “equivalent” by the Union. U.S. officials said they still required clarification on how to meet those criteria.

The U.S. official said it was not yet clear whether there would be further talks with the Europeans on the matter.

Another U.S. official, who also spoke on condition of not being identified by name, declined to speculate on how the dispute could be resolved or whether U.S. airlines should be obliged to comply with the system if the two sides failed to reach an agreement.

Chinese authorities and airlines have also protested the plans. Airbus, the European aircraft maker, and the Association of European Airlines, an industry group, have raised concerns that a trade conflict with the United States and China could affect their businesses.

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