The European Union has abandoned its plan to tax carbon dioxide emissions from flights into and out of European airspace.
The proposal would have included flights originating in the United States.
After debating late into the night, the EU Commission agreed to axe its proposal to tax emissions from flights while they are outside of European airspace. The original proposal would have taxed international flights for carbon dioxide emitted from the whole flight, not just the portion in EU airspace.
“Without doubt the Commission would of course have preferred and fought for a higher level of ambition…. it would’ve been better for Europe’s self-respect and reputation, and even more important, for the climate. But we are where we are,” said EU climate chief Connie Hedegaard.
While the EU commission licks its wounds over the political defeat, U.S. lawmakers celebrate it as a victory for national sovereignty and consumers.
“This action by the European Parliament reaffirms the strong international opposition to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS),” said South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune.
“Through the enactment of my legislation in 2012 and the work of the U.S. delegation to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the U.S. sent a strong message to the EU that it could not unilaterally impose an illegitimate tax on U.S. air carriers or passengers,” Thune added. “Extending the moratorium on the collection of such fees from U.S. air carriers and passengers was the correct course of action.”
Thune and Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill worked with the Obama administration to make sure U.S. airliners and passengers weren’t hit with the emissions tax. President Obama signed the “European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act” into law in November 2012 to “hold operators of civil aircraft of the United States harmless from the emissions trading scheme.”
In 2012, the EU began charging all flights entering and leaving their airspace a tax based on the carbon dioxide emissions for the full duration of the flight. This was heavily opposed by countries like the U.S. and China, who argued that the EU had no right to tax flights for emissions made outside of their jurisdiction.
In the face of heavy international opposition, the EU put a one-year moratorium on taxing international flights. The airline industry agreed to begin crafting their own emissions plan last September, while still rejecting the EU’s plan. But it was not long before the EU Commission began pushing to tax international flights while in EU airspace.
EU member states fought the Commission, arguing that taxing international flights would strain relationships with major trading partners and only spark opposition against a global airline emissions deal.
The Commission relented and now has to convince a divided European Parliament to extend the emissions tax moratorium by the end of the month or else it becomes reinstated.
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