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The battle over clean European skies

By Hpanchal on September 27, 2011



This emissions plan, however forward thinking and environmentally friendly, has enraged the industry. Harsh denunciations have come from all corners of the globe. The U.S. case is being watched carefully by carriers around the world, even as officials prepare the necessary documentation to begin participation in the EU’s new policy.

“The points made by the U.S. carriers are fairly generic in nature, and it seems clear that if the court does find in favor of any of those points, they would probably apply equally to other foreign carriers,” says Andrew Herdman, president of the Association of Asian Pacific Airlines. “We view that very much as a test case, one that we will be watching carefully.”

The AAPA’s close watch over everything regarding the EU ETS isn’t anything new. Herdman and his colleagues have been in contact with the EU, both while the aviation rule was being debated and since it has been passed into law.

“Our objections to the scheme are essentially that in applying it to all foreign carriers for the entire length of the journey for both in-bound and out-bound services, the European


Union is overreaching its authority,” Herdman says. “We’ve been putting forward those views through a variety of channels.”

The AAPA isn’t the only foreign organization taking issue with the EU ETS. In a letter sent last month to Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action, representatives from The International Air Cargo Association expressed their displeasure with the plan.

Calling the scheme illegal, officials wrote that the ETS violates international law and “encroaches upon the sovereign authority of each state over its own airspace.” TIACA executives also argued that the ETS is a catch-22: Instead of improving the environment, the scheme will actually prevent the aviation industry from investing in sustainable technologies.

To add another layer of dissent, the U.S. House of Representatives has introduced a bill that aims to “prohibit operators of civil aircraft of the United States from participating in the European Union’s emissions trading scheme.” The International Air Transport Association and other organizations have released statements commending the U.S. proceedings.


According to an EU spokesman for climate action, including aviation in the union’s emissions trading scheme is a direct reaction to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s lack of environmental progress. Issac Valero-Ladron says that after 15 years of seeing little movement toward a climate change directive, the EU voted to act on its own.

The aviation directive started gathering steam in 2009. While some aviation officials have suggested that the ETS can still be amended, Valero-Ladron says it’s basically set in stone. “This is not a proposal; this [is] adopted legislation,” he wrote in a document outlining the inclusion of aviation into the EU’s ETS. “We do not intend to back down or modify our legislation.”

As for the revenues generated from the scheme, EU spokesmen say it will be given over to European and third-world countries for research into environmental aviation technologies. “The EU member states will be reporting to the European Commission on how revenues have been spent,” Valero-Ladron said. “Our intention is that these reports will be made public.”

Those revenues, according to the letter sent by TIACA, could be quite significant. Officials estimated that the cost of purchasing carbon allowances will surge by $2.2 billion by 2020, rising from $1.3 billion in 2012 to $3.5 billion.


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