Calling the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) “costly” and “illegal,” the US House of Representatives on Monday voted overwhelmingly for the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011, which effectively forbids its carriers from participating in the EU ETS. The bill also instructs US officials to negotiate or “take any action necessary” to ensure US aviation operators are not penalized by “any unilaterally imposed” EU scheme.

In response, the EU vowed it will proceed with including all airlines in its ETS from Jan.1, despite the US House of Representatives vote. 

“We are confident that the US will respect European law, as EU always respects US law,” EU commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard tweeted just after the vote.

US Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman John Mica said, “This appropriately named EU scheme is an arbitrary and unjust violation of international law that disadvantages US air carriers, threatens US aviation jobs, and could close down direct travel from many central and western US airports to Europe. Congress and the United States government will not support this ill-advised and illegal EU tax scheme,” he said.

“The European Union is unilaterally attempting to impose an illegal scheme on American airlines,” Aviation Subcommittee chairman Tom Petri added. “This is unacceptable for all sorts of reasons. If the EU gets away with this unilateral scheme, what's to stop them from imposing all sorts of new 'eco-charges' on other activities outside the EU? And we don't even have a guarantee that the fees will be used to benefit the environment.”

The vote follows a visit from US representatives to the ICAO headquarters in Montreal to urge member states and officials to oppose the EU plan. Other nations opposing the ETS include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and the member states of the Latin American Civil Aviation Commission (ATW Daily News, Oct. 4).

The issue will be raised by the US and 25 other states during the upcoming meeting of the ICAO Council Nov. 2. According to Mica, who headed the delegation, 26 of the 36 countries on ICAO's Council were ready to vote for a declaration that opposes the EU plan, with only the eight EU member states on the council backing the EU, while two others—Canada and Australia—were inclined to abstain, Europolitics reported.

The EU ETS, which is expected to take effect Jan. 1, requires all airlines flying to/from an EU airport to offset their carbon emissions on these flights, regardless of how long that flight is in EU airspace. Airlines will be required to pay an emissions tax to the EU member state to which they most frequently fly (ATW Daily News, Sept. 27).