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Senators Call On U.S. Negotiators To Hold Line On Aircraft Emission Taxes

November 6, 2013 - U.S. Senators John Thune, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Claire McCaskill sent a letter urging the U.S. delegation to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to protect U.S. passengers and airlines from the harmful effects of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) as EU leaders consider how to apply the ETS going forward.

The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), are a set of laws which was enacted in 2005 to cap and reduce emissions of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and other greenhouse gas (methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone) emissions that can be emitted within the European airspace which are responsible for climate change. Within the laws aviation emissions were to kick in 2012.

The United States along with China, India, Russia, and the aviation industry opposed the emissions trading scheme and argued that the European Union did not have the right to control emissions from aircraft not flying within their airspace and threatened to stop all flights to Europe.


In the Last Congress, Thune and McCaskill led an effort to provide the U.S. Secretary of Transportation with the authority to ensure that U.S. air carriers are not penalized or harmed by the EU’s controversial and unilateral emissions scheme.

On November 27, 2012 the United States enacted the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011 which prohibits U.S. carriers from participating in the European Union Emission Trading Scheme and “hold operators of civil aircraft of the United States harmless from the emissions trading scheme.”

The legislation also directed the Secretary of Transportation and other government officials to use “their authority to conduct international negotiations to pursue a worldwide approach to address aircraft emissions” that would be based on consensus rather than the Europeans’ ill-conceived unilateral approach.



In response to the legislation that was signed into law last year and strong opposition from other foreign governments, the EU postponed collecting taxes on international flights into and out of Europe for one year to allow for negotiations at ICAO’s 38th General Assembly that was held in Montreal, September 24th through October 4th. Under the terms of the one-year postponement that expires early next year, the EU has been considering ways to impose certain portions of their controversial ETS tax scheme on foreign air carriers, which runs counter to the agreement reached by the General Assembly. ICAO’s 38th General Assembly recently rejected unilateral approaches to addressing aviation emissions, and the U.S. law authored by Thune and McCaskill directs the Secretary of Transportation to hold U.S. operators harmless from the EU ETS.

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