Worldwide aviation has drastically increased within the last few decades as air travel has become more easily accessed. However, international aviation emissions were not included in the Kyoto Protocol which was recently extended another five years. This is now being considered an issue as the contribution to worldwide emissions by aviation continues to rise.
Due to these growing concerns, the European Union approved a law in 2008 that will charge foreign airlines for emissions. The law, which is to become enacted on January 1st, 2012, will charge foreign airlines for landing and taking off in European Union territory. This is response to the EU’s push to significantly reduce their overall greenhouse emissions.
Initially airlines will only be required to pay for fifteen percent of their carbon emissions. The EU will be making allowances for the remaining eighty-five percent, but it is likely that entire emissions will be charged by the end of the decade. In addition, if an airline landing in the EU comes from a nation with carbon offsets in place, that airline will be exempt from the charges.
It is estimated that the cost to the airline industry will be nearly $3 billion yearly. Concerns are being raised that the cost of such permits from the European Union will cause overall airline travel prices to rise.
Since the announcement, many nations have spoke out against the law. The United States is leading the opposition, followed by numerous nations including China and India. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Transportation Raymond LaHood recently sent a letter to the EU urging them to change their law. The letter stated: “Absent such willingness on the part of the EU, we will be compelled to take appropriate action.” What is deemed the appropriate action was not noted.
One of the biggest complaints regarding the EU’s ruling is that the Kyoto Protocol agreement places aviation emission rulings under the U.N.‘s International Civil Aviation Organization. However, the EU has indicated that talks within this organization have led to no action in more than ten years. The European Court of Justice, the highest court in the EU, recently ruled that the law does not violate the Kyoto Protocol or national sovereignty.
As it appears now, it is likely that the law will become effective January 1st as expected. However, it is unknown as of yet how nations or airlines will react once the charges begin.