Obama signs anti-environmental airline measure

The debate about controlling airline emissions rages on.

Conservation groups pin hopes on global airline emissions deal

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Obama administration may be talking the talk on climate change, but it’s not clear if the president is ready to walk the walk — especially after signing into law a bill that was partly driven by Jim Inhofe, the U.S. Senate’s most infamous global warming denier.

The new law gives federal officials the ability to prevent U.S. airlines from complying with European Union airline emissions regulations — rules that have been suspended for a year while the International Civil Aviation Organization  tries to develop a global mechanism for controlling airline emissions.

Obama’s signature of the measure drew a mixed response, with some groups panning the president for his actions, while others said they are hopeful that the U.S. will help lead the aviation community to a solution.

“Facing the climate cliff, President Obama has evidently decided to step on the accelerator. Doing so during international climate talks is especially shameful,” said Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts, a grassroots human rights organization.

Johnson was referring to the fact that Obama not only signed the airline bill, but also announced a massive offshore drilling lease sale of 20 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico that could produce 200 million barrels of oil and 938 billion cubic feet of natural gas, resulting in 114 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution.

“The American people did not vote for a continuation of the George Bush legacy of selling off our country’s future to Big Oil. The president claims to respect science and care about the fate of future generations. His decisions today instead show contempt for both.”

Other environmental groups said they are hopeful that Obama will follow through on efforts to gain a global airline agreement.

“WWF called for a veto of this bill and we are disappointed that it passed. However, there is a silver lining here. The administration has appointed high level representatives to pursue a global solution for aviation and climate. The White House now must endorse a global, market-based measure to rein in carbon pollution from aviation. If they do, we are optimistic that the U.S. can work with ICAO to develop a package of policies that will reduce our share of global emissions,” said Keya Chatterjee, director of international climate policy at WWF.

“The signing of the Thune bill is largely symbolic,” said Sarah Saylor, senior legislative representative for Earthjustice. “Implementing it would be a mess that could lead to a taxpayer bailout for the airlines or a potential trade war. We are pleased to see the Obama administration turning our collective attention to the international arena where real progress can be made,” she added.
“Unlike the bill that passed here in the U.S., Europe’s stop-the-clock on its law aims to ‘create a positive atmosphere’ for the international talks,” said Annie Petsonk, international counsel at Environmental Defense Fund.  “Now the spotlight is on ICAO, and on whether the U.S. will step forward with the real leadership needed to drive agreement on an ICAO program to cut aviation’s carbon pollution,” she added.
“We echo the Obama administration in calling for an international solution, as that is the best way to address the growing problem of carbon pollution from international aviation,” said Jake Schmidt, International climate policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We are glad that the Administration is signaling its willingness to roll up its sleeves to get that done.”
The groups reiterated that now is the perfect time to make a global deal happen, and they underscored their readiness to work with all stakeholders to get the job done.
Aviation is a significant source of global warming pollution and is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions if left uncontrolled.  If it were ranked as a country, the aviation sector would be the world’s 7th largest source of this pollution.
The EU’s Aviation Directive is a pioneering law that holds airlines accountable for emissions associated with commercial flights that land at or take off from EU airports.  The program is projected to reduce carbon pollution equivalent to that produced by 30 million cars by 2020.
But the EU regulation was suspended earlier this month after ICAO formed a high-level advisory group to provide guidance on crafting an international program to reduce emissions from aviation, with the aim to adopt an agreement at their next triennial Assembly in September-October 2013.
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One Response

  1. This tax on American travelers was a stupid move in the first place. Even Democrats who always favor taxes thought it was an ignorant idea.

    Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a Democratic sponsor of the bill exempting U.S. airlines from the fees, said Obama’s decision to sign the bill was a win for airline customers.

    “It never made a bit of sense for European governments to tax our citizens for flying over our own airspace — and with the passage of this law we’ve got the tools we need to prevent it from happening and protect American jobs,” she said in a statement.

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