Major U.S. environmental groups criticize Obama administration’s efforts to undercut EU law to curb aviation emissions

The CEOs of nine major environmental groups came out in force this week responding to a letter sent by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to ministers in the European Union in which the Secretaries voiced objection to Europe’s pioneering law to reduce global warming pollution from airplanes.

The CEOs expressed their extreme disappointment with the U.S. objections to the EU law. They noted that “Asking America's allies to back down on strongly supported domestic legislation to reduce global warming pollution from aviation is simply not consistent with the historical U.S. leadership role on either the environment or the rule of law. If ever there was a time for U.S. leadership in both areas, it is here and now.”

International aviation represents a significant and fast-growing source of emissions. And, given nearly fifteen years of inaction by the International Civil Aviation Organization (the United Nations agency for aviation affairs), the EU has enacted a reasonable and effective law to address a portion of the sector’s emissions. The U.S. should be applauding such efforts, not thwarting them.

Earlier this week, Europe’s highest court ruled that the EU aviation directive is fully consistent with international law and relevant bilateral agreements. The high-profile case pit the U.S. airline industry against the EU and leading U.S. environmental groups, who joined European groups in supporting the EU law.

Given the imperative to reduce emissions as quickly, effectively, and efficiently as possible, and in light of the Court’s ruling this week, what we need from the U.S. government is political will, creativity, and a keen eye to the future. Instead, we’re confronted with myopic objections to a reasonable and effective law to reduce emissions. What’s more, we see little indication that the U.S. government is ready to take action either domestically or internationally to reduce emission from aviation.

As the letter to Secretaries Clinton and LaHood states, EDF and other groups are “eager to work with [the U.S. government] on creative approaches that overcome the logjams in ICAO and that capitalize on the innovative power of America’s aviation industry.”

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