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Obama urged not to oppose aviation inclusion in EU ETS

6 Aug 2012, 4.33 pm GMT

Obama urged not to oppose aviation inclusion in EU ETS

London, 6 August (Argus) — A group of 16 environmental organisations has written to US president Barack Obama urging him to reject pressure from the airline industry to file an action under the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) challenging aviation's inclusion in the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS). Such an action would be inconsistent with the US administration's efforts to reduce carbon emissions, the group said.

The group warned that filing an article 84 action to challenge the EU's aviation directive would undermine the administration's stated goal of achieving an agreed framework in ICAO to limit emissions from international aviation.

A coalition of industry groups last week called on the US to file an article 84 action under the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation in order to overturn aviation's inclusion in the EU ETS and its application to US airlines, arguing that it will enhance ICAO's ability to achieve meaningful results. This is erroneous, the environmental groups said in their letter to Obama, noting that the ICAO secretary-general cautioned in January that an article 84 dispute would disrupt ICAO's ability to make progress on this issue.

“As such, calls for such a proceeding must be viewed for what they truly are — not an effort to improve ICAO's odds of achieving a global solution, but rather a means of reducing the likelihood that ICAO takes meaningful action on carbon pollution from international aviation — while simultaneously obviating the world's only programme that is now actually doing so,” the environmental groups said.

The airlines' assertion that aviation's inclusion in the EU ETS violates international law lacks credibility, the organisations said. The legal arguments against the EU aviation directive have been “thoroughly rebutted” by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Because the directive has been determined not to violate national sovereignty nor constitute a charge, there is no basis for an article 84 action, the groups said. The ECJ ruled on 21 December last year that international airlines will have to comply with the ETS from the beginning of 2012 as their inclusion in the scheme does not contravene international law.

The group highlighted its concern over the EU's “conspicuous exclusion” from the meeting of several countries last week in Washington, DC, in which the countries discussed steps towards a global deal under Icao as well as reaffirming their strong opposition to the EU's inclusion of international aviation in the ETS. But the group added that it hopes that the meeting will help lead Icao to reach a meaningful global agreement on aviation — a “fast-growing source of carbon pollution”.

“Rather than initiating an article 84 proceeding that would undercut ICAO's prospects for making progress, your administration should lead the effort in ICAO to craft a meaningful global approach on aviation carbon pollution, working together with airlines and civil society,” the organisations urged Obama.

The European Commission has been steadfast in keeping aviation in the scheme, pending a global agreement by ICAO. “The EU has consistently been clear that it will review its legislation only if and when a global agreement to address aviation's greenhouse gas emissions is found in ICAO,” the commission said earlier this year.

Meanwhile, US politicians also expressed their opposition to the EU's aviation law last week. A Senate panel approved legislation on 31 July to prevent US airlines from participating in the ETS, sending it to the full Senate. It authorises the secretary of transportation to prohibit airlines from participating in the scheme if he determines such a prohibition “is in the public interest.”

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