What are they saying about the E.U. program to reduce aviation's global warming pollution?

Starting this January 1, 2012 all airlines that use European airports have to reduce their carbon pollution produced during the entire flight.  This program is a common sense way to reduce the growing pollution from aviation that is contributing to global warming.  The European Union (E.U.) should continue to stand strong in the face of unwarranted attacks by airlines and countries.  And we aren’t alone in defending the merits of this law.  Major media outlets, the European Court of Justice (the highest court in the E.U.), European Governments, environmental groups, and development organizations have all supported the implementation of this important law.  Even some of the airlines that are now drumming up opposition to this law once articulated a preference for the exact system that the E.U. adopted. 

Here is what has been said in support of the program and the system the E.U. implemented.


New York Times, editorial February 26, 2012:

“The United States and the other nations opposing the program should either come up with a better idea — soon — or drop their objections.

…passengers are not looking at charges much greater than what it now costs to check a single bag. This seems a small price to pay for encouraging more efficient airlines and beginning to address global warming.”

New York Times, editorial August 2, 2011:

“The world’s leaders should have reached a deal long ago to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In the absence of such a deal, the European Union’s plan to regulate the carbon emissions of all airplanes that land or take off from European airports is a reasonable attempt to address an urgent problem.

 …the European scheme is no more intrusive on foreign sovereignty than, say, the tax the United States levies on travelers who enter or leave the country.

A global deal would be great. But international talks to regulate airlines’ emissions have been going on fruitlessly for almost 15 years. The European Union’s plan is a much needed first step to controlling a growing source of dangerous emissions. It may even encourage nations to work toward something broader.”

Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker Magazine:

“The current conflict between the United States and the European Union over airline-emissions limits is both. Unfortunately this means that the U.S. is doubly on the wrong side. The Obama Administration ought to be applauding the Europeans. Instead it’s threatening a trade war.

…Now, by trying to block others’ attempts to tackle the problem, the U.S. is behaving in a manner that seems best described as unforgivable.

…If the Administration disagrees with the European plan, then it would seem to be under a heavy obligation to propose its own. All its doing now is shilling for the airlines. Is this any way to run a planet?”

Financial Times, editorial February 7, 2012:

“Having the US and China on the same side of a trade dispute is a rare sight…While aviation only accounts for 2 per cent of global greenhouse emissions, these are expected to grow by 3-4 per cent per year. And since the EU has imposed similar caps on other industries, it is reasonable that it does so on a sector whose importance, in terms of emissions, is ever increasing.”

Richard Black, BBC:

“If governments are serious about tackling climate change, international aviation emissions have to be curbed at some point.

The EU is so far the only political entity that has shown any determination to match words with deeds.

With President Obama having come to power pledging "global leadership" on climate change, one might think his administration would be impressed.”


Letter to President Obama from ActionAid USA, Clean Water Action, Earthjustice, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace USA, Interfaith Power & Light, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oxfam America, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, US Climate Action Network, and World Wildlife Fund:

“A dozen years of international negotiations attempting to address aviation pollution have yet to yield standards to control these emissions. In the absence of a global agreement on reducing carbon pollution from the aviation sector, action by the EU is a sensible first step.

…We urge your Administration to take a different position – one that works with the EU to effectively implement actions to reduce aviation's global warming pollution and to generate revenue for climate action in developing countries. Trying to simply block the EU Aviation Directive would be utterly inconsistent with efforts to curtail global warming.”


European Court of Justice (ECJ), the highest court in the E.U. in response to lawsuit brought by U.S. airlines:

“…the Court of Justice confirms the validity of the directive that includes aviation activities in the emissions trading scheme.

[The ECJ] observes that the directive is not intended to apply as such to aircraft flying over the high seas or over the territory of the Member States of the EU or of third States. It is only if the operators of such aircraft choose to operate a commercial air route arriving at or departing from an airport situated in the EU that they are subject to the emissions trading scheme.

…application of the  emissions trading scheme to aircraft operators infringes neither the principle of territoriality nor the sovereignty of third States, since the scheme is applicable to the operators only when their aircraft are physically in the territory of one of the Member States of the EU and are thus subject to the unlimited jurisdiction of the EU.”


International Air Transport Association (IATA)—the international trade body that represents airlines comprising 84% of total air traffic:

“Extending the EU ETS to cover aviation is probably the least-cost and most effective way to reduce aviation’s climate impacts in Europe”


While it might seem that everyone is aligned against the E.U. program, a large number of influential media outlets and organizations have shown support for the EU program.  And even the trade association that represents the world’s airlines once had good things to say about it.

It is time for the opponents to stop complaining about the E.U.’s approach.  If they have a better solution that will lead to the needed reductions in global warming pollution from airplanes it is time for them to make it happen.  Complaining won’t address global warming.  And talk is cheap.