Anti-EU ETS law takes a step closer to passing US Senate

01/08/2012

S.1956, the law intended to prevent US based aircraft operators from complying with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme has been reported to the Senate by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Should the Senate vote in favor of the bill, only a Presidential veto would prevent it from becoming law. H.R.2594, the companion law in the House, passed by voice vote without opposition late last year.


One amendment was made to the text, requiring negotiation towards a global scheme, however this is unlikely to be a contentious issue as all parties believe this to be the best way forward.


It is unclear how this legislation is expected to work in practice, in fact the entire text is incredibly brief. It does, however, state that US aircraft operators are not to be put at a disadvantage, but with hefty fines for anyone who fails to comply, it does not state how this is to be achieved.

 

Editorial

The response to the progress of the Bill was interesting, with both the representative of the Environmental Defense Fund and EU Climate Action Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, both independently choosing to compare the law to anti-apartheid legislation.


While one would hope these comments were intended to be sarcastic, it does feel that Godwin’s Law is a little closer to being passed...


 

I am sorry if that sounds a little churlish, but for me this response highlights the problem with the ‘debate’ - neither side seems to be talking about the same issues any more. The opposition to the scheme still have some unanswered questions about the extra-jurisdictional nature of the scheme, while the pro-EU ETS lobby don’t seem willing to engage in a substantive argument about this as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) upheld the legality of the scheme.


Early in the debate, I think the aviation industry was guilty of the same thing. Bad arguments were mixed in with the good ones, making it seem like a flat out refusal to comply with the scheme, and the middle ground disappeared. But there was always a core issue about whether or not one sovereign state could impose a requirement on another that results in revenue ending up in their coffers. The ECJ may have ruled in favour of the scheme in accordance with the letter of the law, but this is more of a philosophical point than a legal one.


It isn’t about the aviation industry, nor is it about the best approach to global warming. It is about the precedent being set in relation to taxation and sovereignty, and the aviation industry and environmental lobby are just along for the ride. The sooner both sides realise and acknowledge that, the sooner progress will be made.