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U.S. Calls 15 Countries Together To Discuss Global Airline Pollution Cuts

Can the US and EU agree on airline carbon emission strategies?At long last, top US officials are beginning to indicate that they’re serious about participating in a global deal to cut airline greenhouse gas emissions. The US wants to call 15 countries together at a meeting in Montreal in two weeks to discuss options, the Wall Street Journal reports.

It’s a move rivaling measures being taken by the European Union. Last week, the Europeans concluded their draft proposal to regulate carbon emissions allowances of airlines, which is now going to be voted on in Parliament. But whereas the US wants to negotiate a deal with international partners, the EU forces all airlines landing on its soil to reduce emissions or face hefty taxes.

EU and US officials have been at loggerheads for months already about the issue of airline pollution mostly because of the Bush administration’s unwillingness to take any action. The EU has even issued a ‘green ultimatum’ to US airlines not participating in carbon dioxide emissions, saying they will be banned from landing in the European Union. The rationale behind this draconian proposal is that airlines that compete on airfares without trading carbons will have an unfair competitive advantage. 

But American airline officials quoted by the Wall Street Journal complained that the EU airline proposal violates an important international aviation accord signed in 1944 in Chicago. The EU is planning to have airlines participate in its carbon dioxide Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) by 2012. The program aims to reduce emissions by 3% in that first year compared to levels reached in 2004-2006. US official said they hoped that the EU is going to participate in the international deal they are working on and which is centered around creating climate change guidelines rather than strict rules. The multilateral negotiations are organized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is a Kyoto Protocol recognized forum specifically addressing the issue of airline pollution.

EU officials criticized the ICAO in the Wall Street Journal article for having failed to make any headway, whereas the Europeans view the airline industry as crucial to achieving EU wide greenhouse gas reduction targets of 20% in 2020 compared with 1990 greenhouse gas levels.

Airlines are baulking at the EU measures because they are faced with sky high fuel costs and will soon be faced with further cost increases when they’re forced to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The Wall Street Journal reported that numbers from the Association of European Airlines reveal total costs involved with reducing pollution amounts to €5.3 billion ($8.36 billion) a year for the 35 EU airlines. This is way more than these airlines’ combined operating profit, which reached €3.7 billion last year. Earlier estimates put the costs of reducing greenhouse gas to around $27 per ticket.
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