Not usually accused of being unilateralist and unwilling to negotiate, the EU has sparked what is shaping up to be the next big international trade dispute.
On Jan. 1, the EU will require airlines operating out of all airports in its 27 member states to financially offset their flights' carbon dioxide emissions. The move brings aviation into the EU's existing "Emissions Trading Scheme" (ETS) that has been applied to many other industries since it was first implemented in 2005.
EU Environment Commissioner Connie Hedegaard says it's high time "the polluter-pays principle" applies in the skies too.
"How can we ever hope to make ordinary citizens of the world play their part in tackling climate change," she writes on her website (in English and Chinese), "if the financier from Hong Kong or London or the business man from Guandong [sic] or Frankfurt is not asked for any contribution whatsoever in respect of the significant emissions that he incurs on an intercontinental flight?"
Other governments have blasted the EU's go-it-alone approach. Airlines have consistently resisted being included in the ETS as the system has evolved. Now that it's due for implementation, many non-EU governments have rejected the plan, most vocally the United States, China, India and Russia.
Their main complaints: The EU is asserting the right to assess these fees in the absence of a global agreement, or any reciprocal measures by other governments, to do so; it will be charging for the entire length of a flight, not just the portion in European airspace; and the earnings from the carbon dioxide charge will go directly into the coffers of EU governments, with no requirement that the money be spent to combat global warming, on research and development, new aviation technology or any other tool to protect the environment.http://www.salon.com/news/global_post/index.html?story=%2Ftech%2Ffeature%2F2011%2F08%2F12%2Feu_airline_carbon_emissions