US seeks to block EU aviation carbon tax
01.08.12 @ 09:25
BRUSSELS - The US congress is preparing to vote in a new law that would make it illegal for US carriers to pay into the EU's carbon aviation tax scheme.
A senate committee gave the measure, already approved by the House of Representatives, a green light on Tuesday (31 July).
The EU emissions trading system (ETS), which puts a price on carbon, applies to all foreign airlines operating in Europe except on those arriving from countries with similar schemes. The aim, says the European Commission, is to help EU member states reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight global climate change.
But detractors claim the levy is unfair and would pre-empt countries around the world to impose similar schemes, creating a patchwork system of different policies and taxes.
"If the EU can go and impose their own system around the world in this way, there's nothing to say that five or 10 or 20 other countries wouldn't do the same thing," one senior US official on Monday (30 July) told reporters.
The move comes on the heels of a 16 non-European nation meeting in Washington DC opposed to the EU scheme.
The two-day meeting, which started Tuesday, will explore whether there might be a basis for a global solution to address greenhouse gas emissions from aviation under the UN’s aviation body, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
ICAO has for the past dozen years attempted through international negotiations to address the carbon pollution issue but has yet to adopt any standards or policies to control the emissions.
EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard wrote on Twitter on Monday that the "EU is eagerly waiting for countries meeting in DC to come up with CONCRETE proposals for SUBSTANTIAL aviation emissions reductions."
Meanwhile, environmental groups based in the US, such as Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club and others, are urging US senators to support the EU scheme.
"Left uncontrolled, aviation's carbon pollution is predicted to almost double by 2025 and quadruple by 2050, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization," wrote the NGOs in a letter addressed to US senators on 26 July.
The groups claim the EU carbon aviation tax will motivate airlines to deploy new operational procedures and technologies that are already in production.
The groups also argue if Congress passes the law forbidding US companies doing business in another country from complying with that country's enacted laws, other nations' legislatures may use the same tactic regarding US statutes they find objectionable.
ETS was partially activated in January when the European Commission's union registry was launched. The registry tracks emission allowances issued under the EU ETS and keeps track of the ownership.
Some 181 million aviation allowances will be handed out to airlines for free in 2012.