The European Union (EU) on January 1, 2012 introduced a law that imposes a carbon tax on flights to and from European airports. This ran up against strong resistance from the United States, China, and India; and a Republican senator in the U.S. even introduced a bill that would ban U.S. airlines from paying the tax. (Notably, while not all American airlines are ready to combat climate change, some are trying.)
The European Commission has now exempted non-European airlines from paying the tax for 1 year. Climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said she agreed to “stop the clock” to create a positive atmosphere in which the issue of airline emissions could be discussed.
“But let me be very clear: if this exercise does not deliver — and I hope it does — then, needless to say, we are back to where we are today with the EU ETS (emissions trading scheme). Automatically.”
“While I am pleased the EU has temporarily suspended its efforts to unilaterally impose a tax on our airlines flying over U.S. and international airspace, the EU’s announcement does not rule out future efforts to tax foreign carriers,” said Senator John Thune, who led efforts in the U.S. Senate to block the law.
“China always maintains that under the multilateral mechanism, such as the UNFCCC,… international cooperation should be carried out to tackle climate change,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters in Beijing. “We should oppose unilateral measures.”
German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said the decision was justified. “It made clear that the EU is holding on to its view, but at the same time it is also in the position to stick to its international commitments and actions,” he said.
A year from now, the international airline tax will be reinstated if an alternative isn’t agreed upon.
In other recent news along these lines, Norway last month introduced the world’s largest carbon tax.