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US forces Brussels into rethink on aircraft emissions

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  • Mike Neuman
    The Times January 03, 2006 US forces Brussels into rethink on aircraft emissions By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent THE European Commission is being
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 4, 2006
      The Times January 03, 2006

      US forces Brussels into rethink on aircraft emissions
      By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent

      THE European Commission is being forced to consider scaling back its
      scheme for targeting aircraft emissions after the United States
      threatened to take legal action to block it.

      The Commission proposed in September that all airlines operating in
      the European Union should be forced to offset their greenhouse gas
      emissions by buying permits to pollute.

      The emissions trading scheme, which was endorsed by EU environment
      ministers on December 2, would have covered all aircraft departing
      from EU airports, including American carriers heading across the
      Atlantic. The Commission estimated that the scheme would increase the
      average fare by up to €9 (£6).

      It said that urgent action was needed because greenhouse gas
      emissions from aircraft had risen by 73 per cent since 1990 and were
      on course to grow by 150 per cent by 2012.

      However, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that it
      has "serious and fundamental questions" about the scheme and is
      demanding that it is limited to flights departing and landing within
      the EU.

      The FAA claimed that the scheme would breach the 1944 Chicago
      Convention, which exempts airlines from paying tax on international

      Sharon Pinkerton, the FAA's assistant administrator, said: "The issue
      of whether or not US airlines can be included in any European trading
      scheme raises legal issues that we think must be resolved." She also
      questioned whether greenhouse gases were as a big a problem as the
      Commission had suggested. "We think there are fundamental issues of
      science that still remain unresolved," she said.

      The Commission previously had rejected the option of including only
      flights within the EU in the scheme because they account for less
      than 40 per cent of emissions from all EU departures. Now the
      Commission has conceded that it may have to back down. It has
      appointed a working group to produce a workable plan by the end of

      The minutes of the group's first meeting reveal that it is
      considering three options: covering only flights within the EU, all
      EU departures or all EU arrivals and departures.

      Several members of the group, which includes industry representatives
      and Commission officials, argued that the intra-EU option was the
      only one with any chance of being implemented by the target date of

      The minutes record that some members thought that "it might be better
      to introduce a narrower scheme earlier and then expand it at a later

      British Airways, which is a strong advocate of emissions trading and
      is represented on the working group by the Association of European
      Airlines (AEA), said that the intra-EU option was the best way
      forward. A spokesman said: "If non-EU carriers are forced to trade
      their emissions, it could lead to retaliation against EU carriers.
      Foreign countries could impose penalties on us. There is no
      international agreement on emissions trading, but a successful intra-
      EU scheme could be a catalyst and lead to the concept being adopted

      Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, the AEA's secretary-general, said that the
      intra-EU option might be easier to implement, but it could put EU
      airlines at a competitive disadvantage. "EU carriers would have an
      extra cost which the Americans and others would not have to bear," he
      said. "The ideal would be a global scheme — and at least the
      Americans are now willing to discuss emissions trading after being
      flatly opposed to it two years ago."

      The Green Skies Alliance, a coalition of European environmental
      groups, said that the Commission should not allow itself to be
      bullied by the US. Jeff Gazzard, co-ordinator of the alliance,
      said: "The US tactics are to undermine the whole emissions trading
      scheme by threatening to park jumbo jets full of lawyers outside EC
      offices in Brussels."

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