A Holiday Gift for the Climate: US Airlines must comply with EU emissions lawDecember 21st, 2011 | by Heather Coleman
We had mixed feelings coming out of the Durban climate talks about the state of global climate policy. Some important steps were taken but there remains a significant gap between what the science tells us is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate impacts and the emissions reduction commitments that have been made. Additionally, although we now have an operational Green Climate Fund, it remains to be seen where the money will come from to build climate resilience in the poorest, most vulnerable communities in the world.
But news today coming out of Europe gives us hope that the world may be moving in the right direction. The Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg ruled in a lawsuit brought by the Air Transport Association of America, American Airlines and United Continental that aviation can be included in the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS). The decision cannot be appealed.
The US Airline industry has been for years fighting a provision in the EU ETS to cap carbon pollution generated from flights to and from the EU countries. They even succeeded at passing legislation in the US House of Representatives calling on the airline industry to break another country’s law by prohibiting US airlines from complying with the EU regulations. And late last week, in yet another demonstration of the airline industry’s influence over Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood sent a letter to EU Ministers objecting to the law.
Ultimately, serious global solutions are necessary in the international aviation and shipping industries that both reduce emissions and generate climate finance for developing countries. This ruling, however, represents a critical first step in moving us towards that goal and beginning to reign in a powerful industry that has gone unregulated for far too long.