U.S., EU officials meet on aviation amid U.S. airlines' efforts to gut anti-pollution program

U.S. and European Union officials are attending a recurring bilateral meeting on aviation in Oslo today and tomorrow — but this time it will be amid efforts by three major U.S. airlines to gut Europe’s pioneering anti-pollution program for aviation.  Meanwhile, the airlines' move has garnered public chiding from a group of major environmental groups.

This session of the U.S.-EU Joint Committee will focus on the EU’s new law, scheduled to go into effect in 2012, that holds all airlines accountable for their global warming pollution from flights to, from and within Europe.  United (which is merging with Continental) and American Airlines have brought suit in European court to block the so-called “aviation directive.”

A recent Wall Street Journal story quoted unnamed “people familiar with the U.S. position” who suggested that, in next week’s U.S.-EU talks, the United States will oppose the European law; the sources, paraphrased by the Journal, said

“American officials will argue that the EU is taking a unilateral approach that violates international treaties and is illegally asserting jurisdiction in other countries.”

Jake Schmidt, International Climate Policy Director at Natural Resources Defense Council, a major U.S. environmental group, said in a statement today:

“It’s disappointing that some parties are apparently trying to align the U.S. government with the airlines against the world’s only enforceable program to reduce carbon pollution from airplanes

But we’re confident that within the administration, cooler heads will recognize that President Obama needs to fight carbon pollution, rather than allowing some in his administration to fight anti-pollution initiatives.”

(Jake has additional comments in his blog post about this topic: Some in the US need to stop opposing the EU program to control carbon pollution from aviation)

Ad calling on airlines to "start flying cleaner" runs in POLITICO, but rejected by airline magazines

This advertisement calling for Continental and United to "start flying cleaner" ran on page 2 today in POLITICO, in advance of a U.S.-EU bilateral meeting on aviation.

Last month, six major environmental groups sent letters to the CEOs of American Airlines and United denouncing the airlines for their lawsuit to block anti-pollution programs while simultaneously bragging about their environmental performances.  (See our previous post: American, United, Continental Airlines "Greenwashing", say environmental groups)

Today, a full-page ad published on page 2 in POLITICO calls on United to live up to its avowed “focus on protecting the environment.”

The POLITICO ad counters the airlines' touting of their environmental initiatives while being involved with the lawsuit.  American Airlines, in its April in-flight magazine American Way featured a story called “AA Reduces Environmental Footprint”.  This month, United's in-flight magazine Hemispheres features a piece about its new “Eco-Skies” campaign, which says

United reaffirms its commitment to the environment, both in the air and on the ground…  [and that the company is] Committed to leading commercial aviation as an environmentally responsible company by taking actions today that shape a sustainable future.

The ad that ran in POLITICO is the same one EDF also submitted to both airline in-flight magazines on May 11th.  Last month EDF had requested the airlines respond in a week to whether the ads could run in the magazines, but it took only a matter of hours for EDF to receive a phone call from a United representative stating the United and Continental ad would not be accepted into Hemispheres magazine.

The next day EDF received an email from an American Airlines representative, which said, “After careful consideration,” they could not accept the American Airlines ad for publication in American Way because:

Our policy is not to run advertisements which can be perceived as targeting or highlighting social and/or political issues.  Additionally the ad itself is demeaning to the American airlines brand.

The amount of global carbon emissions from aviation is expected to grow 3-4 percent per year, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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