EU Emissions Trading Scheme Assailed at FAA Conference

 - March 12, 2012, 10:00 AM
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, speaking March 8 at the FAA Forecast Conference, warned of 'enforcement measures' against Europe. (Photo: Bill Carey)

Critics vented frustration with Europe’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) during the FAA Forecast Conference March 8 in Washington, D.C. Leading the chorus of criticism, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood hinted that the U.S. government is considering “enforcement measures” to counter the European Union regulation.

In opening remarks at the two-day event, LaHood described the ETS as “an irritation” and said he is working closely with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a U.S. response. “To impose this kind of tax on airlines is just wrong,” said an animated LaHood. “It’s not the way that we’ve done business. It’s not the way that we’ve operated with our Open Skies agreement or anything else. … There are some things we can do, and that’s what I’m going to be talking to Secretary Clinton about—some enforcement measures—and we’ll see where they take us.”

Tony Tyler, International Air Transport Association director general and CEO, weighed in against the ETS during a luncheon keynote address. “Unfortunately, Europe has chosen a go-it-alone regional approach with the inclusion of international aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme from this year. This is driving discord at a time when we need harmony,” he said. “No one wants a trade war. But the prospects are growing more likely.”

During the speech and in remarks to reporters afterward, Tyler said the European Commission is beginning to recognize that a solution must come through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The Montreal-based United Nations organization is working to develop a solution for aviation emissions by its general session in September next year. Meanwhile, during a February 21 and 22 meeting in Moscow, representatives of 23 nations issued a declaration that “strongly urge[s] the EU member states to work constructively forthwith in ICAO on a multilateral approach to address international civil aviation emissions.” It also mentions “the possibility of reciprocal measures…which may adversely affect [EU] airlines,” such as levies.

When asked about the unspecified enforcement measures threatened by LaHood, Tyler reflected the concern of his member airlines. “I can tell you the action we don’t want governments to take,” said Tyler. “We don’t want governments to take steps [that] are retaliatory by penalizing the airlines of Europe. We don’t want to step up the trade war. But there are other measures that governments can take which will put some pressure back on Europe to reconsider its position.”

Among other commenters, David Bronzeck, CEO of FedEx Express, characterized the ETS as simply “wrong.”

“It shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “No airline executives in the world, including the Europeans, are for it, because they’re worried about the repercussions to their airlines.”