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EU delays controversial emissions tax on international flights

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

Anyone planning on travelling to Europe can breathe a sigh of relief, now that the European Union has delayed its carbon tax on international flights for a year so negotiators can reach a compromise on the issue.

The decision to delay the implementation of the controversial airline emissions tax until 2014 comes after receiving fierce international resistance from the United States, China, and India. The majority of International Civil Aviation Organisation members were also opposed to the tax as well.

“Yesterday’s announcement was welcome news to those of us who have been working to protect U.S. air carriers and passengers from this illegitimate and disingenuous tax,” said South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune in an emailed statement.

As of Jan. 1, 2012, the EU incorporated all flights traveling to and from the EU into their cap and trade system. U.S. passengers would have had pay a tax for the entirety of their flights to Europe — not just the portion over EU airspace.

“The fact is that emissions from global aviation is increasing, increasing, increasing. The projections for years to come is for substantial increase. That is a fact,” said EU climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

Last year, Thune introduced a bill giving the Secretary of Transportation the authority to stop U.S. airlines from complying with the tax. The Senate passed the bill unanimously and the House passed a similar bill.

“My legislation to stop this tax enjoyed overwhelming support in both the House and the Senate and, while this postponement is welcome news, I look forward to the European Union canceling this plan entirely and allowing ICAO to find a consensus solution,” Thune added.

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

The plan to tax airline emissions was part of a broader European effort to reduce carbon emissions and curb climate change.

“We have always wanted a global way of regulating it,” said Hedegaard. “We come to these negotiations with an open mind. The only thing is, that the solution must of course be a solution which actually does something to reduce emissions. It must contribute to solving the problem, obviously.”

According to 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.”

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