The war of words and threats is finally over; rather, the fighting has, at least, been delayed for a little bit. In the battle over the European Union’s emissions trading scheme, EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard saw that it was the EU versus the world and graciously acquiesced to the rest of the industry’s wishes. She stood resolute for a while, but ideas, which some would call misguided, will only go so far — especially if nobody backs you up.
Yes, the EU emissions trading scheme has been put on hold for a year. This can be seen as a victory for the carriers and governments who came out against the scheme, calling it a tax and railing against the supposed impingement of sovereignty. Another way to look at it? The EU really wants what’s best for the environment and was simply trying to push things along; when commissioners got the attention of the world, they backed down.
The U.S. government hasn’t backed down, though. A day after the EU pulled their aviation tax, the House of Representatives passed what is known as the anti-ETS bill, effectively banning U.S. carriers from flying to Europe if they had to pay the ETS. That all seems to be a bit of a moot point, passing a bill outlawing a provision that has all but disappeared, but officials explained that the bill still sends a message. That message — “don’t bring this scheme back to life” — has been echoed by interested aviation parties around the world.
Now that the EU’s plan is temporarily dead, what’s next? Well, the EU has kicked the ball into ICAO’s court, but will that massive international body be able to come up with a streamlined, carbon-emissions-limiting plan that suits the EU’s fancy? The world has been told that the EU commissioners are simply stopping the clock on the ETS and that it will be brought back in a year if ICAO hasn’t presented a workable solution, so as of now, that clock is ticking.
All this fuss over the ETS began in earnest two years ago, with carriers fretting the initial commencement of the aviation section of the law, which began Jan. 1, 2012. (Carriers didn’t have to buy carbon-emissions credits for that first year.)
Now that the calendar is turning to 2013, I have to wonder if we’ll be right back at square one this time next year. Let us hope that, as 2013 becomes 2014, we have a simple, easy proposition by ICAO that suits the needs of the marketplace while also tamping down carbon emissions.