The EU sticks it to the world

Here’s the background: Back in 2008, the EU, ever the climate trailblazer, devised rules to implement a carbon trading scheme for airlines. Beginning in January 2012, all airlines that fly into or out of European airports will have to buy emissions permits. The costs will be low at first but will rise considerably over the years, and they’re expected to be passed on to consumers. The idea being that airlines that don’t find ways to lower their emissions will see their prices rise and will lose business.

The airlines, predictably, don’t like this plan. They filed a suit against the new rules — and today, they lost. The European Court of Justice wrote in its ruling, “Application of the emissions trading scheme to aviation infringes neither the principles of customary international law at issue, nor the open-skies agreement.”

As industries typically do when they face new regulations, the airlines have complained that the “patchwork” rules will be hard to follow, and that it would be better to have a global emissions control plan. Naturally. But the EU got tired of waiting, and so it acted unilaterally.

Of course, it’s downright un-American to let those Europeans tell our airlines what they can and can’t do, so Hillary Clinton and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote a letter to EU officials urging them to change course and threatening to “take appropriate action.” Congress has even drafted a law that would make it illegal to comply with the EU rules.

We’ll see what happens. But for now, the EU’s holding firm, and I applaud them.

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