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U.S. airlines blast court ruling on European emissions plan

December 21, 2011 | 10:50 am

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The Court of Justice of the European Union upheld an emissions-reduction plan for airlines Wednesday, prompting an outcry from airlines and cheers from environmental groups.

The European emission plan would impose taxes on airlines that exceed strict emission limits when flying in and out of European countries.

U.S. airline representatives say the emission plan violates international agreements and have hinted that the tax could force airlines to increase airfares for travel to Europe.

“Today’s court decision further isolates the EU from the rest of the world and will keep in place a unilateral scheme that is counterproductive to concerted global action on aviation and climate change," according to a statement by the U.S. trade group Airlines for America, formerly known as the Air Transport Assn.

The association estimates the emission plan will cost U.S. airlines more than $3 billion through 2020.

Meanwhile, environmental groups applauded the ruling.

"It is high time airlines actually live up to their green claims and comply with the EU law, which will cut pollution and spark low-carbon innovation," said Annie Petsonk, international counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund.

The Court of Justice, Europe's highest court, ruled on the emission plan in response to a challenge by the U.S. trade group and several individual airlines.

The European Commission launched the cap-and-trade emission plan in 2005, targeting utilities, manufactures and airlines. Starting next year, greenhouse gas emissions from airlines will be capped at 97% of their average 2004-06 levels and 95% in 2013.

Airlines that don't use all their allowances can sell the excess to those carriers that exceed the limits. The cost for violating the plan is 100 euros, or about $142, for every ton of greenhouse gases that airlines emit above the limit.

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— Hugo Martin

Photo credit: Getty Images

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