Climate Experts Challenge Anti-ETS ‘Myths’

 - October 15, 2012, 12:50 PM
Legislation passed by the U.S. Senate would prohibit the country’s airlines from participating in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), raising suggestions that the American government might ultimately hold liability for payment of fines. (Photo: American Airlines)

U.S. airlines and their Congressional allies have based their opposition to the European Union’s emissions trading scheme largely on the bogus contention that it amounts to an infringement of national sovereignty, according to a policy brief commissioned by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and produced by Washington, D.C.-based consultancy Climate Advisors. The new report, published on October 11, argues that international aviation rules generally allow nations to regulate flights in and out of their territories, as long as they don’t discriminate against foreign carriers. The U.S., it says, routinely regulates foreign carriers, as do other countries outside the EU. For example, the U.S. mandates reinforced cockpit doors and limits on liquids and gels on all airplanes flying into and out of its territory. It also requires that security checkpoints at foreign airports hosting flights to the U.S. meet its own standards. Meanwhile, outside the realm of aviation, the U.S. routinely passes laws with extraterritorial implications, asserted one of the report’s authors, Samuel Grausz, in an interview with AIN.

“More important, the dispute over aviation has a lot of potential consequences for future discussions around climate policy,” he said. “If the EU is forced eventually to undo its law or back down from its position, we’re concerned that it sets a precedent that would [render more difficult efforts by governments] that want to impose some sort of domestic emissions trading system or some sort of climate policy…to regulate foreign companies operating in their countries.”

Grausz noted that the Obama Administration has kept relatively quiet on the legislation passed in the Senate that would effectively ban U.S. airlines from cooperating with the ETS. Officially, the Administration maintains a position against the ETS and endorsed addressing the issue within ICAO. Given that its members have failed to arrive at a consensus after 15 years of debate and governments remain “far, far apart,” on the timing of any new initiative, however, ICAO might prove utterly unable to resolve the dispute any time soon, said the report.

However, Grausz did note that the EU’s plans have helped lend more of a sense of urgency to settle the matter among the international community. “The existence of the EU policy has really increased the pace of discussion,” said Grausz. “Whether that’s going to result in a successful agreement is still up in the air.”