Indicative of U.S. opposition, the U.S. House approved legislation by voice vote Tuesday to prevent U.S. airlines from paying any EU penalties. The bill already has passed the Senate.
“It’s basically a money grab by European powers,” says Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House transportation committee. “We will not allow the United States to be held hostage.”
The House vote came a day after Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action, postponed enforcement of the program that began this year and had threatened to start charging airlines in early 2013
Europe will now wait for a global solution until next September, when a branch of the United Nations that governs aviation meets. Hedegaard warns that the EU program would resume “automatically” if no solution is found.
“The EU has done its part. Now it’s up to the U.S. to show that they are serious about pushing for a global solution,” says Isaac Valero-Ladron, a spokesman for Hedegaard. “There must be no more excuses toward a global deal.”
U.S. airlines have argued the EU program constitutes an illegal tax that violates international law. They estimated it would cost them $3.1 billion over the next decade. European officials estimated the program, which seeks to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, could add about $30 to each round-trip ticket across the Atlantic.
The U.N. body that will debate a compromise is called the International Civil Aviation Organization. On Friday, a 36-country portion of ICAO called the council agreed to have a “high-level” group of countries negotiate from the options provided by experts, according to Annie Petsonk, international counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, who attended the meeting.
The high-level group — expected to be named later this weekend — could hold its first meeting in December, Petsonk says. The group is scheduled to provide updates to the ICAO council in March and June, so that the full ICAO General Assembly could vote on a program next September, she says.
“I think this leads the way to a possibility for a global agreement,” Petsonk says of the high-level panel. “Could that lead to a bogging down? That’s always a risk with this kind of thing.”
This article originally appeared in the USA Today 13 November 2012