On Wednesday June 22, the US and European Union (EU) officials will meet in Oslo, Norway for a bilateral on aviation issues.  As a part of this meeting they will discuss the EU Aviation Directive – the only program in the world to regulate the carbon pollution from airplanes.  The Wall Street Journal is reporting that US will:  “deliver its first formal objections to the European Union’s impending emission-trading plan for airlines”.  This is the wrong position on legal, policy, and environmental grounds.  It sends the wrong signal about the US commitment to battling global warming.

So today, Environmental Defense Fund is running an advertisement that calls for the airlines challenging this ground-breaking program to stop their attacks and instead focus on finding solutions to reducing aviation’s contribution to global warming.  The US-based carriers have challenged this case in a European court.  The advertisement follows from a letter that six major environmental groups sent to the carriers in May calling on them to stop challenging the EU’s efforts while claiming to be green.  Unfortunately the news reports indicate that some in the US government support that position, although government officials reportedly declined to comment for the story.

As I said in the press release:

“It’s disappointing that some parties are apparently trying to align the U.S. government with the airlines against the world’s only enforceable program to reduce carbon pollution from airplanes.  But we’re confident that within the administration, cooler heads will recognize that President Obama needs to fight carbon pollution, rather than allowing some in his administration to fight anti-pollution initiatives.”

The Wall Street Journal didn’t provide a copy of the reported position, but the article states that:

“According to people familiar with the U.S. position, American officials will argue that the EU is taking a unilateral approach that violates international treaties and is illegally asserting jurisdiction in other countries.”

The European program is legal, a reasonable approach to combat global warming, and necessary given the lack of global progress for the past 12 years in efforts to control aviation’s carbon pollution.  Left unregulated, aviation emissions are on pace to quadruple by 2050.  Now is not the time to pull back from efforts to combat global warming. 

While the meeting between the EU and US will be important, it is the first of what will likely be a long discussion on this issue.  The Europeans should stand firm as the sky will not fall when this program goes into operation next year.  I hope that the US takes advantage of this opportunity and focuses on finding solutions to reduce US aviation pollution instead of fighting the only program in the world dealing with this challenge.  After all, the EU program allows plenty of flexibility to carriers and allows country’s to develop an equivalent system at home. 

Now is the time to reduce pollution, not strip pollution controls.