English High Court Permits ATA Legal Challenge to EU Emissions Trading Scheme to Proceed

Posted: 27 May 2010 | Air Transport Association of America, Inc. | 1 comment

ATA, said that it was pleased that the English High Court will allow ATA permission to proceed with its legal challenge to the unilateral extension…

The Air Transport Association of America (ATA), the trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, said today that it was pleased that the English High Court will allow ATA permission to proceed with its legal challenge to the unilateral extension of the EU emissions trading scheme to international aviation. The High Court will shortly refer the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg for a ruling on the validity of the EU law.

“The High Court decision to refer this case to the European Court of Justice is an important step, as only the ECJ has the authority to rule on the Europe-wide directive that applies the European Emissions Trading Scheme to our airlines. The unilateral extension of the EU ETS to international aviation is contrary to international law both as an extraterritorial action and an improper tax or charge. It also clearly stands in the way of an appropriate and effective global solution,” said ATA Vice President, Environmental Affairs, Nancy Young.

ATA is challenging the EU directive extending the existing emissions trading scheme (ETS) to airlines from around the world engaged in international aviation activities.

ATA and its member airlines are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from aviation. ATA’s view is that the unilateral approach taken under the EU ETS not only violates critical international law principles, but also imposes costly policies on international aviation that siphon away from the airlines the very funds they need to continue to improve their strong record of continuous environmental improvement. ATA and its members have joined other airlines around the world in supporting a global framework for greenhouse gas measures under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations body charged with establishing environmental and other standards for international aviation.

“The legal case is important as a means of addressing what is wrong with the European scheme, but also as an opportunity for us to continue to pursue an approach that is appropriate for this global industry. The U.S. airline industry has adopted a set of measures and targets as part of the worldwide aviation industry commitment to a global framework on aviation emissions,” Young said. “Through this commitment, the U.S. airlines alone will save more than 16 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions through 2050 on top of substantial savings already achieved.”

For more on the ATA climate change commitment, see,EnergyandClimateSolutions.aspx

The case is R (on the application of the Air Transport Association of America, Inc. and Others) v. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. ATA brought the case on behalf of all of its members; American Airlines, Inc., Continental Airlines, Inc. and United Air Lines, Inc. also are participating directly as they have been designated by the European Commission as falling under UK jurisdiction.

The U.S. commercial aviation industry improved fuel efficiency by approximately 110 percent between 1978 and 2008, resulting in 2.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) savings – roughly equivalent to taking more than 19.5 million cars off the road each year.

ATA airline members and their affiliates transport more than 90 percent of all U.S. airline passenger and cargo traffic. For additional industry information, visit

One response to “English High Court Permits ATA Legal Challenge to EU Emissions Trading Scheme to Proceed”

  1. All sides in this case recognise that the European Court of Justice will be the final arbiter on this issue inclding the UK Government so I am not sure how this referral can be presented as a “victory” for US airlines and the ATA.

    ATW readers might like to know that a unique transatlantic coalition of environmental groups joined yesterday’s action at the UK High Court to defend Europe’s right to tackle carbon emissions from all foreign aircraft that fly to and from Europe.

    The coalition comprises three US-based organisations, Earthjustice, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Center for Biological Diversity, who have joined together with the Aviation Environment Federation, Brussels-based Transport and Environment and WWF-UK to intervene in the Judicial Review being sought by US airlines American Airlines, Continental and United, and their trade association, the Air Transport Association of America (ATA).

    The EU’s ground-breaking decision to extend its Emissions Trading Scheme to include aviation sends a clear signal to the world that there really is a worrying climate change problem at 39,000 feet!

    By trying to wriggle out of the ETS provisions, US airlines are showing that they are totally dismissive of the “polluter pays” principle, and worse, that they have zero interest in tackling climate change in any meaningful way whatsoever.

    The airlines’ legal case is wholly misconceived. They have quoted selectively and misleadingly from the laws they claim have been infringed. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme is a vitally important measure that will cap emissions from aviation over time – something the industry’s own mishmash of proposals can never achieve.

    The American Power Act (Kerry-Lieberman Bill) is a sensible approach to regulating international aviation – it recognises that a global deal is the best solution, but doesn’t believe aviation should be let off the hook until that can be achieved. It will avoid any double-counting: it contains special provision to ensure it dovetails with the EU legislation. Yet the ATA is slating the Bill and trying to sue its way out of the EU ETS. Clearly, the ATA wants to avoid ever paying the costs of their CO2 emissions, but US lawmakers are not of a mind to continue granting them special status, a policy we in Europe strongly support.

    Jeff Gazzard, Aviation Environment Federation, London.

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