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European Union Tells US Airlines to Go Green or Get Lost

Forcing all airlines to buy carbon credits will lower emissions and raise fares

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U.S. airlines must start paying for carbon credits to offset their carbon dioxide emissions or face restrictions, or a possible ban, on flights to the European Union, according to EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot.

The United States and the EU will begin negotiating the second phase of their “open skies” agreement in May 2008, and Barrot said negotiations will include a demand that U.S. airlines join the EU emissions trading system or set up something equivalent in the United States.

EU Demands Full Airline Participation in Carbon Trading Program
EU airlines must join the carbon emissions trading scheme in 2012, and the EU is requiring all other airlines that fly in and out of its member countries to subscribe, but the United States has refused to let U.S. airlines participate. The U.S. is not alone in its opposition. According to the International Air Transport Association, 170 countries oppose EU efforts to force airlines to join the carbon trading scheme.

Airline Carbon Credits Preserve EU Profits and the Environment
The European Union is a leader among nations that are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, but the demand that foreign airlines participate in the EU carbon emissions trading scheme is an economic as well as an environmental issue.

European airlines want their foreign competitors held to the same environmental standards they have to meet, because buying carbon credits increases ticket prices. Any airline allowed to compete in EU air space and not required to purchase carbon credits would be able to offer lower fares, putting EU airlines at a competitive disadvantage.

Slow Negotiations Could Lead to Fewer US Flights to Europe
During the “open skies” negotiations, Barrot also plans to demand that the U.S. government lift restrictions on foreign ownership of airlines and accept EU security procedures. He flatly rejected the U.S. request for information on all passengers flying over the United States, calling it excessive and disproportionate.

According to the terms of the current open skies agreement, EU nations can suspend flights from the United States to Europe if the two countries have not made sufficient progress on a second phase of the treaty by 2010. Suspensions could begin as early as 2012.

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