The United States and 16 other countries
opposed to the European Union's carbon emission fee on foreign
airlines are seeking middle ground in the trans-Atlantic dispute over
Representatives from the US and 16 other non-European governments are meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington, the third in a series of meetings that began in Moscow and New Delhi over the past year to oppose the fees.
The meeting coincided with possible action this week by the US Senate's Commerce Committee to shape a law that would forbid the United States from participating in the EU's carbon trading system for airline emissions.
At issue is the EU's unilateral decision to start charging foreign airlines for greenhouse gas emissions generated in flights in and out of Europe. The provision, which became formal in January, is to go into effect in April 2013, and also applies to European airlines.
"The purpose of this meeting is really to try to explore whether there might be a basis for a global solution to addressing greenhouse gas emissions from aviation and a global solution that would include the EU and would set aside (the EU charges) as applied to foreign carriers," a senior State Department official told reporters.
The United States would like to see a global proposal under discussion by the International Civil Aviation Organization when it next meets in September 2013.
European aviation industry groups such as the German Aviation Association (BDL) are also advocating for a global solution, and with good reason: They fear the threats by the United States, China, India and other nations to institute their own emission taxes on European airlines.
"A further escalation of the dispute with many of Europe's most important trading partners could detrimentally affect the broader economy," the BDL said on its website. It called for the German government to work within Europe to find a global solution.
The US said it would reject any proposal that would allow European carbon rules to go into effect before 2020, in the hope that the EU will have signed on to a global plan by then.
"That's completely not in the cards," said the US official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity. He said the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) had created "huge antagonism" around the world with its "unilateral step" that invites other countries to do the same thing.
The US supports the goal of emission reductions as a "perfectly honourable objective." From 2000 to 2010, US air traffic and air freight increased by 15 per cent while emissions dropped 12 per cent, reflecting not only the struggling economy but also better fuel efficiency and airport logistics, he said.
"We have a very aggressive system, which I think has probably produced results far in excess of anything that's happened in Europe yet," he said.
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