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In this photo of Feb. 4, 2012, a cargo ship, owned by German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd, crosses New York Harbor. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) In this photo of Feb. 4, 2012, a cargo ship, owned by German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd, crosses New York Harbor. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)  

EU looks to extend emissions tax to international shipping

Less than two weeks after the Senate voted unanimously to pass a bill that shielded U.S. airlines from paying a European Union emissions tax imposed on European flights, the EU is looking to extend emissions taxes to shipping.

On Monday, the European Commission issued a statement saying they were moving forward with an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.

“Shipping is a global industry and needs global solutions to address its environmental footprint. As a result, we are all working towards an internationally agreed global solution to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from ships,” European Commissioner Siim Kallas and EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said in a joint statement.

“Discussions about further global measures are on-going at IMO level, but we need intermediary steps to quickly deliver emissions reductions, such as energy efficiency measures also for existing ships,” Kallas and Hedegaard continued.

According to the EU Commission, they are considering possible action in 2012 in regards to including shipping emissions into the EU’s greenhouse gas emission reduction commitment.

“The European Union is threatening a new set of taxes on Americans. After introducing an illegal tax on all flights to and from Europe, the EU announced that it wants to force a similar scheme on shipping,” said Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin in statement calling on the Obama administration to act in order to block the tax.

As of Jan. 1, 2012, the European Union expanded its emissions tax all airlines, including U.S. airlines, traveling to and from the EU, meaning U.S. passengers have to pay a tax for the entirety of their flight — not just the portion over EU airspace.

The emissions tax was met with heavy international resistance, including here in the U.S.

In late September, the Senate unanimously passed a bill, introduced by Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, that gives the Secretary of Transportation the authority to stop U.S. airline from complying with the tax, and the House passed a similar bill last year.

“While the Administration has voiced disagreement with the EU’s airline tax on Americans, it has not only failed to stop that tax, but the EU is now ready to extend the illegal tax to another industry,” Sensenbrenner continued. “Both the House and Senate have taken bipartisan action on the EU’s airline tax, but the Obama Administration must step up its efforts and protect the U.S. economy.”

According to a press release by Thune’s office, the tax will cost U.S. airlines and passengers $3.1 billion dollars between 2012 and 2020.

The airline industry also came out in opposition to the airline tax.

According to trade association Airlines for America (A4A), “the EU and its states are in violation of the Convention on International Civil Aviation,” which is “fundamental to enabling airlines to transport people and critical goods around the globe without undue trade blocks and interference.”

Countries like China and India have already come out in opposition to the EU unilaterally imposing an emissions tax on shipping.

“India has argued that imposition of carbon tax on aviation or maritime activity must adhere to the principles agreed to under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,” reports the Times of India.

“China, like many other countries, is firmly opposed to the EU’s unilateral legislation on carbon tax,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a press briefing. “The truth is that the unilateral move is unpopular, and is unlikely to meet the EU’s expectations.”

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