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EU/US/CLIMATE CHANGE : ECJ AVIATION EMISSIONS RULING SHARPLY DIVIDES STAKEHOLDERS.

The reaction in the United States to the EU Court of Justice's 21 December 2011 ruling vindicating the EU's ability to regulate global aviation emissions (see separate article) was sharply divided. Environmental groups warmly welcomed the ruling, the US airline industry (which took the case) vented strong disapproval, while the US government is clearly backing the airlines.

"The court did not fully address legal issues raised and has established a damaging and questionable precedent by ruling that the EU can ignore the Chicago Convention," said Airlines for America (A4A), the lobby for the US airline industry. A4A "is reviewing options to pursue the English High Court," but "in the meantime, A4A members will comply under protest" with the EU's Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), the organisation said.

In contrast, three US environmental groups, in a joint statement with three European environmental groups, voiced their satisfaction. Vera Pardee from the Arizona-based Centre for Biological Diversity said "until now the airlines have sabotaged every effort to curb their greenhouse gas emissions [...] the industry should end its obstruction of common sense". Annie Petsonk from the Washington-based Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) added: "Americans invented the airplane, now it's time for us to create climate-friendly skies". Another EDF attorney, Pamela Campos, told reporters the day before that "the ruling will provide the boundaries for what the appropriate path forward is". Campos felt it would likely intensify talks at the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). If ICAO adopted a global framework on emissions, the EU would have to review its ETS under the EU Aviation Directive, she noted.

CLINTON'S LETTER

As for the US government, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently sent the EU a letter stating their objections to the ETS both on policy and legal grounds The Department of Transportation (DoT), in addition, has sent the EU a letter requesting information on how US airlines are complying with the ETS. The DoT letter was welcomed by the A4A, which said it was "intended to assist in countering the illegal application of the EU ETS by US airlines". The airlines are already required to transmit to the EU information on their emissions - data the EU needs to determine how many emission permits airlines need to buy.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is, meanwhile, staying quiet, much to the chagrin of US environmental groups, which feel it is shirking its duty. The Centre for Biological Diversity is suing the EPA for not taking action to curb aviation emissions, arguing that the EPA is in breach of the 1990 US Clean Air Act. "We are hoping for a court ruling soon so that there will be no more EPA foot-dragging," said Vera Pardee from the centre. Asked whether, if the EPA chose to regulate aviation emissions that the EU could then exempt US airlines from the ETS under the equivalency' mechanism, Pardee said it was "not too complex" to factor in such EPA measures in determining equivalency. From the EDF, Campos added: "there is a need to take multiple approaches" to curb emissions, including on fuel efficiency and air traffic control, and that if the EPA adopted an emissions standard, it would be "all the better".

Over on Capitol Hill, a bill was passed by the House in October with bipartisan support, which makes it illegal for US airlines to participate in the EU ETS. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate in early December, although the Senate version gives the DoT discretion in deciding whether or not the airlines can participate. The Obama administration has not said whether or not it would enact such legislation. But even having the bills floating around helps the administration as it can use them as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the EU, according one environmental activist. In recent months, the US administration has been instrumental in galvanising opposition to the ETS among other governments around the world, such as Russia, India and China.
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Publication:Europe Environment
Date:Jan 6, 2012
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