The United States and 16 other nations Wednesday renewed their “strong opposition” to a controversial EU carbon tax on airlines, vowing to work for a multilateral global solution.
The meeting hosted in Washington with 16 other countries was called to explore ideas for a global solution to address greenhouse gases stemming from the aviation industry, among emissions blamed for climate change.
A carbon tax, or emissions trading scheme (ETS), was imposed on airlines by the European Union on January 1, but carriers will begin receiving bills only in 2013 after this year’s carbon emissions have been assessed.
The United States, and other nations, have objected to the unilateral EU action although they agree a global policy is needed to address the issue.
“In a nutshell the meeting confirmed… the very solid and strong opposition to the ETS as applied to foreign carriers,” a top administration official said.
The US aviation trade organization, Airlines for America, has also rejected the EU move, saying US airlines would be charged a tax on the total flight, even if only a portion of it was over EU airspace.
“The funds collected do not have to be used for environmental purposes and in fact can be used to stave off Europe’s debt crisis,” the body said in a statement.
The two-day US-hosted talks brought together representatives from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.
The group now intends to work through the International Civil Aviation Organization towards drawing up a comprehensive scheme for all nations.
The next steps include working on a carbon dioxide efficiency standard for aircraft and engines, and to explore the feasibility of whether a single global market measure like an off-setting scheme would work, the US official said.
He said the talks, which were led by the US special envoy for climate change Todd Stern, had been a “useful and candid conversation” and the EU had been informed “in a very broad sense of what transpired in the meeting.”
Despite the opposition to the EU’s unilateral move, a lot of countries were open to or already implementing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the official said.
But he warned it was “going to be a substantial period of time” before any global measure or a cap-and-trade scheme might be adopted.
The EU has said the tax will help it cut carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and has insisted it will not back down on the plan.
It says the cost for the airlines is manageable, calculating that the scheme could force the carriers to add between 4.0 euros ($5.50) and 24 euros to the price of a long-haul round-trip.
However, a bill is currently making its way through the US Congress which would bar US carriers from participating in the scheme.