No Leadership from Obama Admin in EU Airline Carbon Tax Resistance

With time running out for a deal on the European Union's carbon scheme, now is not the time for America to keep a pace of action lagging far behind that of other nations. 

The Europeans’ controversial emissions trading scheme (ETS), which opens the doors to heightened and unjustified fees, was followed through in January after their apparent inability to reach a deal with the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO). As it stands now, “all airlines flying into and out of Europe have to submit permits for their carbon emissions made since January 2012.” And if prior, freely-issued permits “don’t cover their emissions then they have to buy more permits on the open market.”

Thing is, the permit requirements apply to the length of the entire journey, not time simply spent in EU airspace. So, the obvious problem lies in the fact that this allows the EU to “effectively collect a tax for activities in the airspace of other sovereign states and territories.”

With its blanket application to non-EU carriers, the move has been rightly ridiculed as a heavy infringement on national sovereignty. February of this year saw the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and India issue a jointly-written statement voicing opposition to the scheme. 

That’s not all, either.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia issued a full-throated order to its “national airline not to comply” with the costly rules. Mohammed al-Sabban, a representative of the country when the decision was made, stated that it was order was designed to “send them a message that the case will not end easily.”

The Saudis are not alone in their resistance to the ETS rules. While 1,200 airlines complied with data submissions earlier this year, 10--all from China and India, flatly refused

Yet until last week, the United States has largely sat on the sidelines while the Europeans have enforced the measure all year. Last Saturday, the Senate came off its laurels and passed a bill granting the “Secretary of Transportation the power to prohibit U.S. airlines from complying.”

For a clear example of the absurdity surrounding the EU having the ability to collect fees for flight times in American airspace, look no further to the fact that it passed the Senate unanimously. Not only that, it was co-sponsored by South Dakota Republican John Thune and embattled Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill. 

Last year, the House passed a bill adopting a similar posture, so reconciliation is “all but assured.”

The ball now lies in the Obama administration’s court for enforcing the prohibition on compliance. It’s been documented that both the “State and Transportation Departments have criticized the EU’s policy.” Not to mention potential political fallout of backing a rarely unified Senate. 

However, as has been the case far too often with President Obama, there is little clarity on whether or not such common-sense will be enforced. Currently, that knowledge “remains an open question.”

Now is the time for America to take a strong posture against a carbon tax that clearly violates national sovereignty for the likely cause of backdoor payments on Europe’s astronomical debt. 

Direct opposition from America could likely serve as a turning point in convincing the EU to halt enforcement of the ETS provisions. For that reason, it is an imperative that the Obama White House takes a clear stance against the EU’s schemes before the bill even reaches the Oval Office. Other nations have already drawn the line; now is the time for America to do the same.


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