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Diplomats Try to Defuse Dispute Over EU's Aviation Emission Rules

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Congress first got involved in the control of jet aircraft emissions last year, when both chambers approved legislation by Thune barring U.S. airlines from participating in the EU’s emissions trading scheme.

Foreign governments also are concerned the law oversteps the EU’s legal jurisdiction. That argument resonates with many congressional conservatives who helped sweep Thune’s bill through the Republican-controlled House last year.

Airlines for America, an industry trade group that backs an ICAO-brokered settlement, estimates that U.S. carriers would be subject to about $3.1 billion in European carbon taxes if the EU regulations take effect.

For the average flier, that would work out to an extra $20 or more per ticket, depending on the length of a flight and other factors. The fee could increase further if carbon-reduction targets become more aggressive in the future.

Navigating the ICAO meeting won’t be easy, given some of the players involved. While emerging economic powerhouses such as India, Brazil and China back the American objections to the EU’s cap-and-trade scheme, unrelated tensions in Syria have strained relations between the U.S. and Russia, another leading carbon tax opponent.

Industry officials say they are buoyed by early discussions ahead of the conference in Montreal. At an aviation conference last week in Washington, D.C., Nancy Young, Airlines for America’s vice president of environmental affairs, said there has been progress toward a solution but tough negotiations will be needed to reach a final settlement.

But environmental groups warned that a Sept. 4 meeting of the aviation council’s governing board had failed to generate an early consensus on a carbon control framework, potentially limiting the prospects for diplomats completing work before the assembly kicks off in a couple of weeks.

“While the Council’s inaction makes it even more difficult for international leaders to find an emissions reduction solution before year’s end, the need could not be greater,” Brad Schallert, a senior program officer with the World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement. “Without a firm commitment to a global, market-based solution from delegates at the full ICAO Assembly later this month, another three years of delays and inaction are bound to follow.”

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