Press Release

Questions raised over airline’s role in international emissions dispute

October 31, 2011

There appears to be a link between US aviation industry lobbyists and recent international political pressure against EU plans to cap aviation emissions according to documents revealed today by Transport & Environment.

Later this week the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which regulates the industry, will consider whether to adopt a declaration signed in September in India by 21 countries against inclusion of aviation emissions in the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS).

According to files seen by T&E, that declaration appears to have been drafted with the assistance of American government officials supervised by the one time head lawyer of United Airlines. Dr Julie Oettinger, previously head of international and regulatory affairs for the airline, joined the US government’s airline regulator the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as head of policy, international affairs and the environment in June 2010, six months after United Airlines launched a major legal action against the EU proposal in the UK high court. The computer file of the India declaration, seen by T&E, shows the document’s author as ‘FAA’. US involvement was also confirmed by an Indian official who said, ahead of the declaration, “The US wanted a platform, we were more than enthused to be one…”

Further questions have been raised about the role of the former airline lawyer because the US government includes no reference to Dr Oettinger’s senior regulatory affairs position at United Airlines immediately prior to joining the FAA in her official biography on the FAA website.

The true nature of the international opposition is also in question as it emerged that airlines from eight of the 26 countries calling for ICAO action against the EU-ETS are actually exempt from the EU scheme. US airlines will be responsible for 10% of the emissions covered but airlines from other big countries supporting the resolution such as India and Brazil are each responsible for just 1% each according to EU figures. Two thirds of the emissions covered by the scheme come from European airlines, who have not joined the calls for ICAO action. Neither have Australia or Canada.

Bill Hemmings, programme manager for aviation at T&E said: “The developing world is being asked to fight a proxy war on behalf of American airlines who balk at the thought of paying the equivalent of a 1 cent a litre tax on kerosene to fight climate change. The aviation industry is sending its lawyers to work in Europe and inside the US government to fight climate change policy but it should be sending its engineers to work to make cleaner planes.”

The ICAO Council is being asked to oppose a regional emissions trading scheme yet the organisation recommended such schemes over a global measure as early as 2004, having ruled our other climate protection measures such as kerosene taxation or en-route emissions charges.

Download the current T&E briefing on aviation in the EU-ETS, including sources and documents mentioned in the above press release.

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