Refusing to allow US airlines to comply with an EU law to curb carbon emissions, Congress is ignoring poor people around the world impacted by climate change.
It would be one thing if the United States were on the forefront of taking action on global climate change. But when we’re lagging badly, it’s beyond confounding that we would try to stop other countries from doing something.
But that’s exactly what the House of Representatives is trying to do. With—and here’s the big shocker—the help of the Obama administration.
On Monday, the House of Representatives voted to prohibit US airlines from complying with an EU law to curb carbon pollution from airlines. The vote, which was bipartisan despite opposition from some Democratic stalwarts on climate issues like Congressman Henry Waxman and Congressman Ed Markey, is a slap in the face—further evidence of the strong influence that major corporations wield on both parties.
And the administration signed a declaration with other countries last month opposing the EU rules.
Basically, this vote is intended to have US companies break other countries’ law, in this case laws put in place in order to protect our climate. And it’s a shameful vote at a time when thousands are marching in the streets calling for justice and equity in our financial and political systems.
The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) applies a uniform rule to all flights landing in or departing from EU airports regardless of origin or destination and regardless of the airline’s home country. The program requires a 3% emissions reduction by 2013 and a 5% reduction by 2020 (all compared to a 2004-2006 baseline). It is flexible in design, giving airlines multiple options to meet these emissions control obligations, and flights arriving from countries with programs equivalent to the EU’s are exempted altogether.
The House bill would bar US airlines from taking part in the program and orders the US government to ensure that US airlines are not forced to comply. Jake Schmidt of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) posted a brilliant blog outlining a list of compelling arguments against the bill and highlighting the outrage Americans should feel over this vote. In calling on the US government and industry to break another countries’ law, he argues, the law could instigate a trade war with Europe.
But what’s particularly galling is that—even as the US government keeps decrying unilateral action by the EU—the US has resisted efforts at the international level to limit emissions from airlines. The US position seems to have become no steps forward anywhere.
The EU’s effort to move forward highlights what’s ultimately needed—serious international solutions in international transport sectors. Oxfam has been pushing for mechanisms in the international shipping and aviation sectors that would both reduce carbon emissions and raise revenues to support adaptation and mitigation actions in developing countries. A dozen years of international negotiations attempting to address aviation pollution have yet to yield standards to control these emissions, but there is reason for hope in the international shipping sector where the industry lobby is less powerful than in aviation.
Meanwhile, while we’re working to put those solutions in place, we have to make sure that the US is not actively obstructing countries that do want to act. The Senate must reject this terrible House bill, and the administration should do everything in their power to prevent it becoming law.