AEF to defend EU climate policy against legal challenge

27.5.2010   (Aviation Environment Federation press release)

AEF, together with a trans-Atlantic grouping of environmental organisations,
will join a court action to defend Europe’s right to tackle carbon emissions from
foreign aircraft that visit Europe.  The UK High Court today granted permission for NGOs to intervene in support of
the UK government’s implementation of EU policy to extend its
emissions trading scheme (or ETS) to include aviation.

Late last year, three US airlines and their trade association, the American Air
Transport Association (ATA), brought an action in the UK Court claiming that the
extension of EU ETS to foreign carriers was unlawful. The UK will now refer the
matter to the European Court of Justice and a hearing is not expected for several


Enviromental groups defend European efforts to reduce aircraft emissions

27.5.2010   (AEF)

London – A transatlantic coalition of environmental groups today joined an action at
the UK High Court to defend Europe’s right to tackle carbon emissions from foreign
aircraft that visit Europe. 

The coalition, consisting of three US-based organisations, the Environmental
Defense Fund, Earthjustice, and the Center for Biological Diversity, as well as
WWF-UK, Transport & Environment, and the Aviation Environment Federation in
Europe, is intervening in a Judicial Review being sought by several US airlines
– United, Continental and American – and their trade association, the Air Transport
Association of America (ATA). The airlines allege that the extension of the EU
Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) (1) to cover emissions by their aircraft travelling
to and from Europe infringes international law and the EU-US open skies agreement.

The environmental groups assert that the ETS has been built on solid legal foundations
and, through their intervention in the case, seek to highlight the urgency of
tackling emissions from aviation and the failure of the airline industry to date
to take appropriate measures.

Despite the recent global downturn, aviation greenhouse gas emissions have grown
significantly over the past decades and are forecast to continue growing. The
sector currently accounts for around 5% (2) of the total global warming, and by
2050 its impact if left unchecked is expected to be 3 to 4 times greater than
in 2000. At present, emissions from international aviation remain outside of any
international climate agreement to control or limit their growth, whereas emissions
from most other industrial sectors in developed countries are covered by the Kyoto

Tim Johnson, Director of the Aviation Environment Federation, said: "global negotiations to limit aviation emissions have made virtually
no progress since 1997 so the EU was right act. By seeking to avoid Europe’s Emissions
Trading Scheme with no credible alternative, the airlines are showing that they
are not serious about tackling climate change."

Peter Lockley, Head of Transport Policy at WWF-UK, said: "The airlines have used every trick in the book to try and put a stop
to any international efforts to tackle emissions through regulatory measures.  
Once again, they are attacking European plans, without providing any credible
alternative to put a cap on emissions."

Bill Hemmings, of EU sustainable transport campaigners Transport & Environment, commented: "The industry’s climate strategy of ‘carbon neutral growth’ is a
load of hot air. Rather than start to cut emissions now like other sectors, they
want to do nothing for yet another decade by which time commercial aviation will
be emitting a billion tonnes of CO2 annually. Thereafter their plan is for industry
emissions to continue to grow unchecked with only the excess being subject to
regulation not through cuts in aviation emissions, but through reductions in other
sectors via offsets. That is an untenable and irresponsible position and is totally
out of step with other industries."

Sarah Burt of Earthjustice commented     "The US carriers say they want to achieve a global system for controlling
emissions from aviation, but rather than building on the European approach, they
are trying to destroy what progress has already been made. They are out of step
with developments in the US, where lawmakers have seen no reason to give aviation
a pass when designing climate legislation."

Annie Petsonk of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) added:   "The draft US Kerry-Lieberman Bill is a sensible approach to regulating
international aviation emissions – it recognises that a global deal is the best
solution, but doesn’t believe aviation should be let off the hook until that can
be achieved.  The ATA is attacking climate legislation for aviation on both sides
of the atlantic. Clearly, the ATA wants to avoid ever paying the costs of their
CO2 emissions, but US lawmakers are not of a mind to grant them special status."

– Ends –

Notes to editors:

(1) The EU Emissions Trading Scheme began in 2005 and requires regulated entities
to surrender emission permits equal to the CO2 they have generated. From 2012,
the scheme will be extended to the aviation sector and cover CO2 emissions from
all flights to and from EU airports – and thus including foreign aircraft arriving
or departing EU airports. This aviation activity will be capped at an average
of 2004-6 emission levels and airlines will receive permits up to this level in
2012 and equivalent to 97% of that total from 2013 onwards. Permits will be distributed
through a combination of auctioning (15%) and a free allocation proportional to
their respective share of the market.

(2) Lee et al calculated that the CO2 and non-CO2 radiative forcing (RF) attributable
to aviation in 2005 was 4.9% of the total RF when best estimates for the effects
of aviation induced cirrus cloud formation are included. Without cloud effects,
the figure was 3.5%.     ("Aviation and global climate change in the 21st century", Atmospheric Environment, April 2009

– The action is being brought in the UK because under the terms of the European
Emissions   Trading Directive, the airlines involved are administered by the UK.
However, today’s court hearing was to arrange a referral to the European Court
of Justice. All Parties agree that the matter should be dealt with at an EU level,
as it stems from EU legislation. A hearing in Luxembourg may not take place for
several months.

– The environmental organisations are represented by Jon Turner QC, Kassie Smith
and Laura John of Monckton Chambers, instructed by Harrison Grant.



Media contacts:


Tim Johnson, Director, Aviation Environment Federation; tel +44 (0) 7710 381742,

Debbie Chapman, Senior Press Officer, WWF-UK; tel +44 (0) 7900 670282,


Bill Hemmings, Transport & Environment; tel: +32 (0) 487 582706,


Sarah Burt, Earthjustice; tel: +1 510-550-6755 (office), +1 415 816 4544 (mobile),

Annie Petsonk, International Counsel, Environmental Defence Fund (EDF); tel:
+1 202 365 3237,




see also

English High Court permits American ATA legal challenge to EU ETS to proceed

Date Added: 28th May 2010

The Air Transport Association of America, the trade organisation for US airlines,
is pleased that the English High Court will allow it permission to proceed with
its legal challenge to the extension of the EU ETS to international aviation.
The High Court will shortly refer the case to the European Court of Justice for
a ruling on the validity of the EU law. They claim the ETS violates international
law, and starves them of funds.

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