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Air Transport Association Chief Executive Says European Aviation Emissions Trading Scheme 'Contrary to International Law and Bad Policy'

Air Transport News 30 Oct.08

Source: Air Transport Association of America 30/10/2008

The Air Transport Association of America (ATA), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, today expressed harsh opposition to the European Parliament’s Oct. 24 final approval of legislation covering the world’s airlines under the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

In a speech delivered before the European Aviation Club in Brussels, ATA President and CEO James C. May drew attention to a proliferation of new aviation taxes and charges within the European Union (EU), pointing out how these taxes and fees are counterproductive to the industry’s ongoing environmental progress. May said that, “Masquerading under the banner of supposedly ‘protecting’ the environment, these measures threaten to stifle the growth of the industry, compromise our environmental progress and, ultimately, raise prices for consumers, leaving them to take alternative, less safe, higher emitting modes of transportation.”

May also emphasized that the EU legislation adding aviation to the ETS – opposed by the United States and many other countries – violates international law and reverses the progress being made with ongoing fuel-efficiency and environmental innovations. It is estimated that this European cap-and-trade system would impose an annual cost to airlines (over and above the cost of jet fuel) of several billion dollars in 2012, tripling in 2020.

May offered three solutions being pursued vigorously by ATA member airlines. He emphasized the vital connection between energy and environmental issues and the importance of addressing these issues together. “First, governments must recognize that policies that siphon money out of aviation are counterproductive; airlines should not be prevented from reinvesting in ever-improving technologies that reduce emissions. Second, governments and politicians have dilly-dallied for too long in considering new air traffic management systems; they should get on with the task of building them. And third, we must all recognize the need for developing alternative fuels, a task that demands the development of comprehensive policies and genuine public, private and academic partnerships.”

May concluded his remarks by urging Europe and the world away from unilateral action on these important issues, saying that “… great challenges are best addressed collectively.”


ATA member airlines have taken significant action to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in their operations, even though commercial airlines account for only 2 percent of U.S. GHG emissions. To cut fuel consumption, the best means for reducing GHG emissions, U.S. airlines have improved their fuel efficiency by 110 percent between 1978 and 2007. This has resulted in a savings of 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide – roughly equivalent to taking 18.7 million cars off the road each of those years.

Given that the airlines already are highly greenhouse gas-efficient, the ETS would siphon funds away from the U.S. commercial aviation industry, which is spending tens of billions of dollars to replace aircraft with new, more fuel-efficient models. Its efforts to retrofit airplanes with new engines, airframes, winglets, fan blades and other design features that improve efficiency would also be compromised by the plan. The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that 90 percent of the emissions improvements achieved within the industry come from the airlines’ continual reinvestment in newer aircraft and technology upgrades. And just last week, the Association of European Airlines estimated compliance costs of the ETS could reach $6.7 billion a year, taking away funds that would otherwise go to ongoing environmental improvements.

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 ETS would require U.S. 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. This is in violation of the Chicago Convention and other international treaties.

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