One of Barack Obama’s first climate-related actions since winning his second term of office has been to sign a bill preventing US airlines from complying with EU regulations regarding emissions. Or more specifically the taxes required by the European scheme from all airlines flying into European airspace.
The American aviation industry will no doubt be pleased to have been shielded by the bill, as most have opposed the compulsory EU emissions scheme which is applied in accordance with the total mileage of the incoming flight rather than just the bit in European airspace.
Since the emissions scheme began a year ago, the US airlines have been granted a temporary exemption.
The Americans have maintained all along that the main reason they don’t want to be included in the compulsory EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), as much as they understand it’s point in principle, is that they feel it would put them at an economic disadvantage. (Even though other non-American airlines picking up passengers from American destinations and taking them to Europe are also required to pay the tax.)
And besides, they’d rather be bossed around by their own International Civil Aviation Authority ICAA), which has been charged with the task of developing a voluntary emissions limiting scheme of their own. A task they have so far been mulling over for about 10 years with no noticeable results.
Which all maybe just goes to show that sometimes voluntary agreements like the one Obama’s still waiting for, simply don’t do it. Industry actually prefers legislation to voluntary brownie-point-scoring, schemes that requires everyone to ‘try their best to be good’ rather than making it a given. With a law. At least that way everyone is on a level playing field.
Hopefully when Connie Hedergaard, the EU climate chief and a persuasive proponent of the EU scheme , gets a chance to speak to Obama face to face she will be able to persuade him to redirect his efforts to re-negotiating the precise terms of the scheme, rather than waiting any longer on the ICAA.
Civil Aviation is one of those sectors of industry which is already working hard to develop alternative fuels with greatly reduced emissions, if only to stave off the uncertainty of traditional fuel prices. A rigid framework such as that in operation in Europe could be just what is needed to turn all the research and trials (many thousands of miles have already been flown on emission-free fuels) into an economic reality that we all benefit from.