The United States concluded a two-day meeting of 16 countries opposed to the inclusion of non-EU airlines in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in Washington yesterday (1 August) .
The countries, which included China, India, Brazil, Australia, Japan and Canada, reiterated their opposition to the EU’s decision to oblige foreign airlines to purchase credits for emissions on flights landing or taking off from EU airports from the beginning of this year.
But US administration officials sought to differentiate the meeting from previous anti-ETS summits in Delhi and Moscow, which were mostly limited to simple condemnations of the decision. The meeting focused on possible global solutions in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) which would prompt the EU to suspend the inclusion of aviation in the ETS. The European Commission has insisted that only a global deal to reduce aviation emissions will result in a suspension.
A senior US administration official said the meeting, “indicated that there was a lot of interest among countries in continuing to work on the suite of activities that ICAO has been working on, including developing a CO2 efficiency standard for aircraft and engines.” Last week an ICAO committee agreed on a metric for developing this standard.
Asked whether the US will file a United Nations challenge to the ETS inclusion under the Chicago Convention on aviation, the official said no decision has been taken but it is “not off the table”.
On Tuesday (31 July) the US Senate’s committee on commerce, science and transportation backed a draft bill that would authorise the American government to ban US airlines from participating in the ETS. It received bipartisan support. The bill has already been adopted by the House of Representatives.
The senate bill will pass some time in September, according to people following the debate in Washington, and President Obama has promised to sign it. Any airline that refuses to participate in the ETS will not be allowed to land at EU airports.
There has been speculation that even if the bill passes, the Obama administration will not enforce it. If the administration did decide to use the bill’s authority to enact a ban, an amendment added by Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry would require a 30-day public hearing before it could take effect.
So far, American environmental groups have not been heavily involved in trying to defeat the bill. But they have indicated that if the administration chose to enforce the ban, they would become active with a public campaign to ‘shame’ the US airlines, who are lobbying for the bill through industry assocaition Airlines for America, during the public hearing period.
Such legislation banning private sector participation in foreign economies has little precedent. Previous examples are mostly limited to boycotts of Apartheid-era South Africa.
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