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EU to enforce aircraft emissions law despite US opposition

The European Union [official website] on Tuesday insisted that it will enforce its new cap-and-trade law [EU Directive 2008/101/EC, PDF] on airline emissions for flights traveling to and from Europe despite strong opposition from the US. The new legislation, taking effect January 1, 2012, will eventually require all airlines, including those of non-EU countries, to pay for their carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to encourage airlines to use cleaner fuels and to economize fuel use. Those who do not comply would face steep fines. On Monday, the US House of Representatives [official website] voted to shield [press release] US passenger and cargo planes from compliance with the EU law. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica [official profile] has criticized the law, calling it "an arbitrary and unjust violation of international law that disadvantages US air carriers, threatens US aviation jobs, and could close down direct travel from many central and western US airports to Europe" and a violation of international law and trade agreements. The change in the emissions law would greatly impact large US carriers, costing them an estimated $3 billion by 2020. Despite US opposition, EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard [official profile] said via Twitter that she expects the US to comply [Twitter] with the law as the EU has respectfully complied with US law.

Several US and Canadian airlines have challenged the legislation in the EU Court of Justice [official website] alleging that the carbon emission fees violate international law. The airlines argued that the directive violated the Chicago Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Open Skies Agreement [texts, PDF]. Earlier this month, the ECJ advocate general Juliane Kokott issued an opinion that the EU law does not violate international law [JURIST report] and noting that the EU is not a party to the Chicago Convention. The opinion of the advocate general is advisory and not binding on the ECJ, which will subsequently rule on the issue.

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