President Barack Obama closed the legislative loop on U.S. refusal to comply with the European Union’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) on November 27, when he signed S.1956, legislation that orders the Secretary of Transportation to prohibit U.S. aircraft operators from participating in the carbon tax plan. The legislation also calls for the government “to conduct international negotiations to pursue a worldwide approach to address aircraft emissions.”
Obama’s endorsement came more than a year after anti-ETS legislation was first introduced in Congress. Administration officials were originally noncommittal, saying they were considering a range of options to resolve the dispute with the EU. The U.S. House passed an anti-ETS bill in October 2011. The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), was introduced in December last year and finally passed by the full chamber in September. “After fighting an uphill battle to move the U.S. Senate, which sat on the House bill for the last year, I am pleased that this measure has been signed by the President over suggestions by some environmental groups to veto the bill,” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “The law…is a clear signal that the United States will not accept the EU’s go-it-alone attempt to impose emissions taxes on other nations.”
Airlines for America, the trade organization representing major U.S. airlines, applauded Obama’s action. “With the President’s signature today, the United States has sent an unequivocal signal to the EU and the world that while the illegal and unilaterally imposed EU ETS is the wrong way to proceed, there is a steadfast commitment to the right way: a global sectoral approach at the international level,” said president and CEO Nicholas Calio.
The EU has currently suspended the implementation of the ETS for international flights to and from Europe for about a year in reaction to the international uproar over the carbon cap-and-trade scheme. The suspension was granted in anticipation of an alternative measure coming from the next meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) next September. “[I]t seems that because of some countries’ dislike of our scheme many countries are prepared to move in ICAO, and even to move toward a market-based mechanism at the global level,” EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said on November 12. “Let me be very clear,” she added. “If this exercise does not deliver, then needless to say we are back to where we are today with the EU ETS.”