US Senate looks to pile pressure on EU aviation plans before election break

By John Parnell

The US Senate will attempt to push through its anti EU aviation emissions trading bill this week ahead of its election recess that begins on Friday evening.

The “European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011” already passed by a Senate Committee in July, is the eighth piece of legislation on the Senate’s agenda when it resumes work on Wednesday 19 September.

US airlines will be prohibited from taking part in the EU ETS scheme if the Senate's bill is eventually passed into law. (Source: Flickr/pawpaw67)

If there is time to pass the bill this week, it will pile pressure on the EU ahead of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) meeting in October.

The industry wants ICAO and the UN climate change talks, managed by the UNFCCC, to develop a global framework for cutting aviation emissions, a claim that critics have dismissed as a delaying tactic.

The EU announced last year that from 2012, all airlines using its airports would be required to declare their emissions for those flights and required to take part in its Emissions Trading System (ETS).

The bipartisan bill sponsored by Republican Senator John Thune and Democrat Claire McCaskill and does not represent recent Republican bills that have been overtly hostile to the climate agenda.

The move is more akin with an observation by former UNFCCC boss Michael Zammit Cutajar that the US resists being tied to international treaties.

Although only initially required to account for 15% of their emissions, airlines from China, India, Russia and the US reacted angrily to the move calling it “unilateral”.

The bill would prevent US airlines from taking part in the scheme. China has taken its own retaliatory measures by holding up aviation trade deals with European manufacturer Airbus worth $12bn.

Emissions from aircraft account for just 2-3% of global emissions. However, greenhouse gases injected at altitude have a greater warming effect and the industry’s continued growth has seen some estimates of this figure for 2050 go as high as 20%.

The industry says improved aircraft and fuel technology is slashing emissions per passenger mile with the Air Transport Action Group claiming 2050 emissions from the sector will be half what they were in 2005.

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