US airlines take EU to court over emissions cap

BRUSSELS (AP) — U.S. airlines took the European Union to court on Tuesday arguing that its imposition of emissions caps on non-European carriers breaches international law.

The suit at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg was filed by Air Transport Association of America (ATA), which represents the U.S. airlines, together with United/Continental and American Airlines.

Starting in January next year, the EU plans to include all airlines flying to and from the continent in its cap-and-trade scheme — a move that will eventually force the carriers to pay for their emissions. The new pollution restrictions are designed to encourage airlines to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming by switching to cleaner fuels or economizing on fuel consumption.

Each carrier will be allocated permits to emit a set amount of carbon dioxide. They can buy extra credits if they exceed that limit or sell credits if they emit less.

Air travel is responsible for about 3 percent of greenhouse gases, but their share of global emissions is rising rapidly. Although thousands of airlines will fall under the scheme, 50 major carriers are responsible for about 70 percent of the emissions.

In March, the European Commission, the EU’s executive, set the 2012 cap at 212.9 million tons of CO2, about 3 percent less than the annual average the airlines emitted in 2004-2006. The cap will be reduced the following year by another 2 percent of that three-year average, where it will remain until 2020.

Airlines from the United States, China, Russia and elsewhere have argued that the EU cannot impose its rules on flights from outside the bloc.

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