Advisory: EDF expert to testify before Senate in support of reasonable first steps to combat aviation pollution

June 6, 2012
Jennifer Andreassen, 202-572-3387,


In a June 6 hearing in the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on aviation and the European Union’s Emissions Trading System, Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) International Counsel Annie Petsonk will highlight the environmental and economic benefits of reasonable programs to cut global warming pollution from airplanes. She will also warn senators of the unintended consequences of legislative proposals to ban U.S. air carriers from participating in the EU ETS. 

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing will “examine issues associated with the inclusion of the airline sector in the ETS, a program that caps greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for certain industries in the EU, and its potential impact on U.S. air carrier operations.” Other witnesses are U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; EU Director General for Climate Action Jos Delbeke; and aviation sector representatives.


2:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Russell Senate Office Building: Room 253

Online: The hearing will be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website. Refresh the Committee’s homepage 10 minutes prior to the scheduled start time to begin streaming the webcast.


Europe’s Aviation Directive is a pioneering law that holds airlines accountable for the global warming pollution of all flights that land at or take off from EU airports.

Aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Until now, the sector has escaped regulations that would require emissions reductions. The EU aviation law would, by 2020, cut carbon pollution by an amount equivalent to taking 30 million cars off the road each year.

United/Continental and American Airlines and their trade association, Airlines for America (A4A), challenged the legality of the EU law, and a transatlantic coalition of environmental groups, including EDF, intervened in defense of the law. On December 21, 2011, following a thorough examination of the issues by the advocate general, Europe’s highest court upheld the law, finding that it is fully consistent with international law, does not infringe on the sovereignty of other nations, and is distinct from the charges and taxes subject to treaty limitations.

While airlines have argued the costs of complying with the law are prohibitive, analyses by MIT and others indicate that the cost to passengers is equal to half the price of a beer on a United flight, and that airlines might even profit from the law.

Senator John Thune has proposed a bill to prohibit U.S. carriers from complying with the EU law and to require the Secretary of Transportation to hold U.S. airlines harmless – in other words, the Secretary has to find a way to make sure the airlines don’t have to pay any penalties for flouting the EU law.

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