Skip to content

The challenge U.S. airlines are bringing against the European emissions trading system will be fought out at the European level, a British court has determined. The High Court May 27 granted a motion to have the battle over the legality of the ETS moved to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). A hearing there is not expected for months.

At issue is the European Union’s move to include aviation in its ETS starting in 2012. The European law has been controversial with many foreign airlines and several governments. U.S. officials had warned the legislation could spark a legal challenge because it is seen by critics as violating the Chicago Convention. The airlines wanted the case referred to the Luxembourg-based European Court, something the British Department of Energy and Climate Change did not oppose – the DECC administers the ETS in the U.K.

The legal motion against the ETS was filed in December by several U.S. carriers and the Air Transport Association of America (ATA). They filed their motion in U.K. courts because the affected airlines have to file their carbon dioxide emissions reports with London. ATA said it was pleased with the High Court’s ruling.

“By trying to wriggle out of the ETS provisions, U.S. airlines are showing that they are totally dismissive of the “polluter pays” principle, and worse, that they have zero interest in tackling climate change in any meaningful way whatsoever,” says Jeff Gazzard, coordinator of the GreenSkiesAlliance European network.

Meanwhile, the courts have allowed a group of environmental lobby alliance – which represents U.S. and European advocacy groups — to join the case. Airline advocacy groups also are part of the case, but the court has asked the various organizations to combine their case.

Aviation Week, 27 May 2010