Air Transport Association says European Aviation Emissions Trading Scheme Illegal


WASHINGTON,DC – The Air Transport Association of America (ATA), the industry trade organization for the leading US airlines, today voiced harsh opposition to the European Parliament approval of legislation to add aviation into the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), pointing out that the proposal violates the Chicago Convention, the treaty governing international aviation, as well as other international laws. ATA also explained why the scheme takes the wrong approach for addressing aviation emissions.

“The Parliament’s unilateral decision to cover the world’s airlines – including US airlines – in Europe’s ETS is not only bad policy, it is illegal,” said ATA president and CEO James C. May. “The EU’s unilateral grab of power over US and other non-EU airlines wherever they are in the world is a clear violation of the Chicago Convention. The EU decision to move forward with this legislation is sure to spawn a legal challenge.”

ATA is not alone in its citation of the legal defects of the legislation. Last fall, all non-EU countries that are members of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations body that regulates international aviation, stated their opposition to the proposal on legal and policy grounds.

The legislation requires US and other non-EU airlines to pay EU entities for the airlines’ emissions for the entire length of a flight to and from Europe, without the consent of the airlines’ home countries. In other words, Europe will charge US airlines and their customers for emissions in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco – indeed anywhere in the US an aircraft bound for or incoming from Europe operates. May said that it appears as if the EU intends to keep the meter running in international airspace, too.

“If this sounds like a tax grab, it is. Europe rakes in the revenue – the rest of the world pays,” May said.

ATA also believes that the European legislation will be counterproductive, because airlines already are – and long have been – motivated by the high cost of fuel to operate as fuel efficiently as possible, which is the best means of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In fact, US airlines have improved their fuel efficiency by 110 percent since 1978, resulting in 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide savings – roughly equivalent to taking 18.7 million cars off the road each of those years.

“To continue this trend, the airlines need funds to invest in newer aircraft and other innovations,” May said. “The EU legislation will siphon away the very funds the airlines need to continue to reduce emissions within the industry.”

While opposing the EU scheme, May noted that ATA member airlines have taken significant action to address GHG emissions from their operations, although commercial airlines account for only 2 percent of US GHG emissions.

In addition to a tremendous historic record of fuel and GHG efficiency improvements, the ATA airlines have committed to an additional 30 percent fuel efficiency improvement between 2005 and 2025. U.S. government action to modernize the outdated air traffic management system would add another 10 to 15 percent improvement on top of that. ATA and its airlines are working very hard to bring environmentally friendly alternative jet fuels to market, which would further reduce aviation emissions.

“The EU decision appears to be without regard to these efforts,” said May.