EU halts carbon emission fees for airlines

The European Union is halting rules that would force airlines, including U.S. carriers, to pay for their carbon emissions, a move that arrives as U.S. lawmakers seek to shield domestic airlines from the requirements.

EU climate chief Connie Hedegaard said the rules are on hold for a year to allow the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization time to reach a global agreement on aviation emissions, according to Reuters.


“To create a positive atmosphere, we have agreed to stop the clock,” she said of the exemption for airlines outside the EU.

On Capitol Hill, the House is slated to vote Tuesday in agreement with the Senate’s version of a bill that shields U.S. airlines from paying greenhouse gas emissions costs imposed by European officials.

Airlines for America, an industry trade group, said it’s “cautiously optimistic” about the EU action but still wants Congress to press ahead with the legislation.

“As we have said consistently, we believe a global sectoral approach though [the International Civil Aviation Organization] is the best way to address aviation emissions, and at the same time, we are hopeful Congress can move forward on legislation opposing the EU [emissions trading system],” the group said.

The EU requirements are unpopular with other nations, including American officials and airlines, that oppose imposition of Europe’s emissions credits trading system on flights to and from the continent.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told a Senate panel in June that the EU system’s application to aviation is “lousy” policy.

The rules are not frozen for EU airlines, according to news accounts. Here’s more from Reuters on Hedegaard’s announcement Monday:

EU airlines will still have to pay for their carbon emissions under existing rules and EU member states will still have to formally endorse the Commission's exemption for non-EU carriers, Hedegaard said.

She added that she had informed representatives of the 27 member states of the Commission's plan.

The European Union has come under intense international pressure to tear up its law making all airlines using EU airports buy carbon allowances on its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

This post was updated at 10:30 a.m.