A controversial plan that would require all planes, including ones from the United States, that fly in and out of European Union states to pay for their carbon emissions was suspended Monday in response to mounting pressure from airline organizations. The suspension may not last long, however.
Airlines and related organizations in the United States, China, and India were not pleased with the so-called Emissions Trading Scheme, which was implemented Jan. 1 amid little fanfare outside of the EU. In June, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood derided the policy in front of the U.S. Senate during a hearing, and U.S.-based airliners said it could cause a “trade war.”
The collection of emission payments on international flights was put on hold to encourage the formation of an international agreement in its place.
“The EU has always been very clear: nobody wants an international framework tackling CO2-emissions from aviation more than we do. Our EU legislation is not standing in the way of this,” EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a statement.
The trading scheme, she said, was put on hold mainly “because of some countries’ dislike of our scheme” and new regulations that were proposed last week at the international level.
“This is a long sought-for opportunity that we must use. This is progress! But actually to get there, a lot of tough negotiations lie ahead of us,” she said.
However, if the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, does not come up with something before this time next year, the European carbon trading scheme will be implemented again. The trading scheme was only introduced earlier this year because the ICAO had not progressed for “many years,” she said.
The plan was initially set up seven years ago to cover the carbon emissions from factories and other facilities. Later, it was implemented to cover airliners. In the plan, airliners that use airports in the EU have to pay a tax on every ton of carbon dioxide that is emitted during the entire flight.
Jason Anderson, the head of environmental group WWF’s European energy policy branch, said that the EU move gives more time for the U.N. to operate, saying that Europe’s trading scheme had “galvanized” talks on the matter.
“Now it’s up to other countries who have been opposing action on tackling the climate impacts of aviation, especially the United States, to show that they are serious about pushing for a global solution,” Anderson said in a statement.
Some critics of the trading scheme said that its suspension means that it will likely not be implemented again.
German Liberal parliamentarian Holger Krahmer told the European Voice, “This is a friendly formulation for [saying] the project is buried.”
“The conclusion is, a European island is not the solution for climate protection,” Krahmer said.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 240 airliners around the world and has been a stalwart critic of the EU’s scheme, described the suspension of the policy as “a significant step in the right direction.”
Tony Tyler, the association’s director, said that the EU’s “pragmatic decision clearly recognizes the progress that has been made toward a global solution for managing aviation’s carbon emissions by the International Civil Aviation Organization,” a statement reads.
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