United States and the EU prepare for showdown over airline emissions

It appears that the United States and the European Union are set for a showdown next week about airline emissions.

Reuters reports that U.S. airlines next week plan a legal challenge in Europe’s highest court to their inclusion in the European Union carbon market.

On July 5, the Air Transport Association of America, American Airlines and United Continental will seek to overturn the EU scheme at Europe’s highest court.

The EU says it needs to set a price on carbon dioxide emissions to guard against future climate impacts such as crop failures, droughts or flooding, according to Reuters. Starting January 2012, airlines flying to or from Europe must buy permits from the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme for 15 percent of the carbon emissions produced. They will join 11,000 factories and power plants already in the program.

The U.S. government wants an exemption. Airlines say their emissions should only be addressed in United Nations bodies such as the International Civil Aviation Organization. On July 5, the Air Transport Association of America, American Airlines and United Continental will seek to overturn the EU scheme at Europe’s highest court.

The EU says it will not back down. EU officials say the international talks at ICAO have dragged on since 1997 with no resolution.

“We have been patient for many years,” EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard told Reuters. “Global solutions? I’m all for it. The EU has been fighting for global solutions for many years — unfortunately, without enough success.”

Reuters notes that EU lawyers will point out that airlines chose the scheme over other options, such as eco-taxes or charges on jet fuel.

“Extending the EU ETS to cover aviation is probably the least-cost and most effective way of dealing with aviation’s climate impacts in Europe,” Brian Pearce, the chief economist of the International Air Transport Association, wrote in a paper in 2007, when the EU was preparing the move.

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