U.S. Airlines Clash with EU Emissions Scheme


(c) 2011 Air Transport Association

The Air Transport Association, the industry trade organization for leading U.S. airlines, urged the European Court of Justice (ECJ), to  call for the European Union application of an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to be dismissed and declared illegal. United Continental and American Airlines also joined the challenge. The ATA questioned the EU's right to regulate U.S. carriers.

The ATA, which brought the action on behalf of all of its members, said in its argument that aviation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions should be regulated on a global sectoral basis and that unilateral action by any country or group of countries violates international law.

The ATA said, “If the EU ETS regime implemented an international agreement agreed by third countries, as well as by the EU, we would not be here today. ATA challenges EU ETS because it is a unilateral measure, which has not been agreed by countries outside the EU, yet nevertheless applies EU law to third country carriers in third country airspace.”

In applying the trading scheme to non-EU airlines, the ATA said the EU is violating customary international law and several treaty provisions in the Convention on International Civil Aviation (commonly referred to as the “Chicago Convention”), which dictates that countries have sovereignty over the airlines in their own airspace.

As proposed, the EU ETS provisions would regulate an entire flight from across the United States to the EU, even though the flight would be in EU airspace for only a tiny fraction of the journey.

The ATA reaffirmed that its members are committed to continuing their strong record of fuel efficiency and GHG emissions savings.

"ATA and its member airlines are dedicated to developing commercially viable, environmentally friendly alternative jet fuel and working with manufacturers on advanced airframe and engine technologies. Additionally, ATA continues to urge the U.S. government to modernize the air traffic control system to improve efficiencies and reduce emissions." 

The high court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of 2011 or early 2012.

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