Airplanes emit greenhouse gases, so airlines–and ultimately passengers–are about to pay for the privilege of flight.
The European Union reached a landmark agreement Thursday to cap emissions from aircraft, raising the stakes in an increasingly ferocious battle with the United States over how to regulate global greenhouse gases.
In the first requirement of its kind, all airlines arriving or leaving from airports in the European Union would be required to buy pollution credits beginning in 2012, joining other industrial polluters that trade in the European emissions market. That includes non-European carriers like American Airlines and Singapore Airlines.
Including airlines in the system is the boldest move yet by Europe to stamp its environmental policies on the rest of the world.
For consumers, such rules could mean further fare increases in the wake of a steady rise in fuel surcharges imposed by airlines — a trend that looks set to continue.
“At the end of the day it’s the people who fly” who will pay more under the new system, warned Anthony Concil, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, the industry’s biggest lobbying group.
American officials warned that the requirements probably would be illegal under the convention governing international civil aviation.
“The mandatory application of the European Emissions Trading System to U.S. airlines and airlines of other non-European countries is, we think, both contrary to international law and ultimately unworkable,” said Robert Gianfranceschi, a spokesman at the United States Mission to the European Union in Brussels.
Although such taxes might be sold as for the public good, the burden inevitably falls on those of least means. And government–politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists alike–are the big winners, milking the system for as much money and power as possible.