by Rebecca Lefton
Airlines have undertaken a massive public relations campaign to green their image. But when it comes down to actually addressing the carbon pollution to mitigate climate change, the industry has staunchly opposed any action.
At a public debate yesterday, Nancy Young, VP of Environmental Affairs for the Air Transport Association of America, Inc. (ATA), spoke on behalf of U.S. airlines about their position on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, saying that organization opposes the law.
The aviation sector accounts for around 13 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, and aviation emissions are on track to quadruple by 2050 if left unchecked. The EU Emissions Trading System is the only legal framework attempting to address such a massive growth in emissions. Under the EU ETS, airlines that fly into or out of Europe will begin reducing global warming emissions in January 2012 (3 percent reduction from 2004-2006 levels in 2013 and 5 percent by 2020).
Major US airlines and the ATA are actively opposing the EU law. In December 2009, American Airlines, Continental Airlines and United Airlines (Continental and United have since merged), and the ATA filed a lawsuit seeking to evade global warming pollution reductions under the EU ETS. The suit, filed in the UK, has been referred to the European Court of Justice. The Court will hear ATA’s case on July 5, and a decision is expected near the year’s end.
ATA has said that it recognizes the need for airlines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that it supports efforts to do so, but the organization refuses to accept the only existing policy mechanism in place to reduce emissions.
Instead, ATA calls for a global approach for addressing greenhouse gas pollution from the sector. A global measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the aviation sector is ultimately preferable, but such a result will not be reached in the near term. Serious, accountable efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must begin now.
The airlines are touting their green achievements that reduce their environmental impact, yet they are concurrently undercutting the most significant initiative to achieve these results. The EU ETS is our best chance to limit global warming pollution from air transport. It is also an excellent opportunity to generate economic growth. The emissions trading system puts a price on carbon, thereby stimulating clean technology innovation. This provides opportunities for manufacturing and boosts job creation from the development of more efficient aircraft, such as the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.
It is curious that Young chose the clandestine Global Warming Policy Foundation as a platform to espouse the ATA’s views. The GWPF receives its funding from anonymous donors while simultaneously calling for climate scientists to be “more open.” The GWPF, founded by climate-denier Lord Lawson, takes a page from the book of climate denying organizations funded by oil and coal companies in the United, claiming that the science of global warming is “far from settled.” Lawson believes that the “new religion of global warming ideology” has filled the vacuum left by the collapse of communism. To him, “Green is the new Red.”
Young’s remarks at the GWPF debate did not diverge from ATA doublespeak. She continued to claim that the airlines were doing everything in their power to reduce their emissions, while refusing to accept any legal standards of accountability or their responsibility to the international community.
—Rebecca Lefton, International Climate Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress