US, EU at odds over airline pollution
BRUSSELS - European Union efforts to force airlines to pay for their pollution got a boost yesterday when a legal adviser urged the EU’s highest court to reject a US challenge.
Several airlines based in the United States and Canada had sued the EU over its plan to include them in an emissions-trading plan next year. All airlines would have to obtain costly emissions permits for flights to and from EU airports. So far, only large factories and power plants are part of the program.
The North American airlines argue the rules contravene international aviation agreements.
The airlines have argued the EU lacks jurisdiction to require permits for emissions produced during an entire flight, or even stretches that cross the air space of non-EU countries.
But Juliane Kokott, the European Court of Justice’s advocate general, disagreed.
“The inclusion of international aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme is compatible with the provisions and principles of international law invoked,’’ she said yesterday in her opinion to the court. A final ruling usually comes several months after the opinion.
“We, along with several other states, intend to continue to press our European partners to exclude non-EU air carriers’’ from the system, said Krishna R. Urs, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for transportation.
The Air Transport Association of America rejected yesterday’s legal opinion.
“ATA’s view that the extension of this unilateral, regional scheme to aviation violates international law is supported by more than 20 countries,’’ including Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Japan, the industry group said in a statement.
The emissions rules are the EU’s main tool in its fight against climate change. The new restrictions are designed to encourage airlines to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming by switching to cleaner fuels or economizing on fuel consumption.
Each carrier will be allocated permits to emit a set amount of carbon dioxide. It can buy extra credits if it exceeds that limit or sell credits if it emits less.
Air travel is responsible for about 3 percent of greenhouse gases, but airlines’ share of global emissions is rising rapidly. Fifty major carriers are responsible for about 70 percent of the emissions.
Environmental groups welcomed the rules. Tim Johnson, director of the Aviation Environment Federation, said the plan “is a positive step toward ensuring that airlines operating from European airports will become accountable for their carbon emissions.’’
The EU has argued that forcing only European airlines to buy permits would put them at a competitive disadvantage and undermine the program.