Environmental Organizations Urge E.U. to Resist Pressure from U.S. Aviation Industry Over Carbon Emissions

July 5, 2011


(Luxembourg, July 5, 2011) Leading environmental organizations will make their case at the European Court of Justice today emphasizing that all airlines should be included in the E.U. Emissions Trading System (ETS).

WWF-UK, the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and Earthjustice will give evidence to support the U.K. Government and E.U. Member States in a case against the Air Transport Association of America (ATA), which is questioning the legality of including non-European Union airlines within the ETS.

The five E.U. and U.S. NGO’s are urging policymakers to resist pressure from the ATA and leading U.S. airlines to undermine the system. The E.U. move to include aviation in the ETS is the only multi-country system that now exists to reduce aviation emissions, which are doubling every decade.

Keith Allott, Head of Climate Change at WWF-UK, said: “The ETS is a modest but important start in reducing international aviation emissions and its benefits will be even greater if Member States use the revenues to support action on climate change, as suggested under the ETS Directive. The European Court of Justice needs to back the inclusion of all flights in the ETS and the EU needs to stand firm against political pressure and industry lobbying that will take us back to square one.

“US officials have said that ETS plans to include aviation emissions are ‘the wrong way to pursue the right objective’ and they would prefer an international agreement instead. But efforts to strike such an agreement have moved with glacial slowness for more than a decade. The US is the world’s biggest emitter of aviation greenhouse gases, and supporting the EU ETS would help it to reduce emissions and raise finance for developing countries to tackle climate change.”

Pamela Campos, attorney at Environmental Defense Fund said: “We are disappointed that U.S. airlines have taken this action to challenge what is a pioneering and moderate effort by Europe to reduce carbon pollution from this strategic sector. Compliance with the E.U. system can be a driver for finding solutions. Airlines should be racing to comply with this law and deliver cleaner low-carbon travel to the flying public, instead of racing to the courthouse to try to block a reasonable and well-designed law.”

Tim Johnson, Director of Aviation Environment Federation said: “Including aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme is consistent with the approach adopted by the UN’s International Civil aviation Organisation (ICAO). Last year, ICAO reinforced that countries should select the most appropriate measures, including market-based instruments, to contribute towards emissions reductions to meet the sector’s global goals. The aviation industry, like ICAO, has recognised emissions trading as the most cost-effective way to reduce its carbon emissions. But this action by US carriers, if successful, would hamper the EU’s ability to tackle climate change and could wind up costing the airlines even more if alternative measures are introduced to reduce emissions.”

Bill Hemmings, Transport & Environment (T&E) said: “The EU’s carbon trading scheme gives international aviation an opportunity to start addressing its carbon footprint, which is ten times greater than other modes of transport. The cost, equivalent to a cent on a litre of kerosene, is very modest. Instead of flying planeloads of lawyers to Europe, the aviation industry should face up to its future and get on with the job of cutting emissions.”


• Air industry lobbyists claim that including non-E.U. airlines in the ETS amounts to an ‘unlawful tax’ on non-E.U. countries and that this therefore contravenes their sovereignty. However, as stated by the E.U., the ETS is a market-based environmental measure, not a tax, which simply uses emissions of flights into or out of the E.U. as the basis for carbon trading within the system. As it has no extra-territorial application beyond E.U. Member States, it does not affect sovereign rights and is entirely compatible with international law. U.S. airlines say they would prefer a global agreement on aviation emissions. However, talks to include aviation emissions through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have been stalled for 14 years. Failure to implement ETS as planned would delay action on reducing emissions even longer.

• Plans to include aviation in the ETS were introduced because of the rapid rise in aviation emissions - 110% growth between 1990 and 2008 compared to 34% growth in transport emissions — http://www.aef.org.uk/uploads/EmIncTandE.pdf

• The Commission estimates that, between 2005 and 2020, the aviation sector in Europe will grow by 142%. The ETS itself does not impact growth significantly: with ETS, the growth will still be 135-7% but it importantly puts a price on carbon and caps the industry’s emissions at below 2005 levels, either by encouraging airlines to reduce their emissions or to pay for emission cuts in other sectors where reduction costs are lower.