(Sort of) bad news for the environment this week – the Senate committee are drawing up plans to order US airlines simply to ingore the carbon emissions scheme in Europe. This would bring total chaos to all airports inside the EU. The commerce, science and transportation committee of the Senate have cleared the way to allow a floor vote to introduce a new bill. This would actually make it illegal for US airlines to follow the new EU legislation which forces airlines using airports inside the EU to pay for their carbon emissions. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives has already improved this measure.
Washington currently has a climate of divides, but this is sadly one of the very few issues which receives universal support between the Republican and Democrat parties. They also both are in favour of moves in Congress and the pressure introduced by Obama's administration to force Europe to back down, leaving responsibility with the International Civil Aviation Organisation to decide on measures to cut carbon emissions by carriers.
Asian airlines are also opposed to the scheme, siding with American carriers who feel that the scheme is unfair since it charges based on the entire time a flight is in the air, rather than just the time it's in European airspace. Whilst this may be inconsistent from an environmental point of view, it makes political sense that countries ought to be free to pick their own aviation policies when planes are using their airspace.
“If the EU can go and impose their own system aroudn teh world in this way, there's nothing to say that five or 10 or 20 other countries wouldn't do the same thing, and I think that creates a risk which is very much a concern, I think, of airlines aroudn the world, that you end up with a kind of patchwork system of different mechanisms, different taxes, and different kinds of policies” said a senior administration official.
Whilst the scheme is in theory sound for the environment, this inconsistent approach is unlikely to work – the International Civil Aviation Organisation clearly has its work cut out. Introducing a uniform scheme across the world seems the best bet, but getting all parties to agree and introducing rules within the bounds of political possibility will be the real challenge.