WASHINGTON Aug 1 Seventeen countries opposed to
an EU law that forces their air carriers to pay for the carbon
they emit on flights to and from Europe reaffirmed they want to
keep working on a multilateral framework under the United
Nation's global aviation body, a senior U.S. official said on
The U.S. State Department and Department of Transportation
concluded a two-day meeting of countries opposed to the EU's
emissions trading system (ETS) without a joint declaration, but
plan to address the greenhouse gas emissions issue within the
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
"In a nutshell, the meeting confirmed the very solid and
strong opposition to the ETS, but also indicated that there is a
lot of interest among countries in continuing to work on the
suite of activities in ICAO," the senior U.S. official said in a
Joining the United States at the meeting were Australia,
Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Japan, South
Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South
Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
The countries plan to try to implement the goals and actions
they agreed to at the 2010 ICAO assembly. These include a
voluntary target to cap net carbon emissions by 2020, national
action plans, improving air traffic management, and adopting an
emissions standard for aircraft, according to the meeting
There was also broad agreement that they would continue to
develop market-based measures that countries or regions could
use to curb emissions.
However, the senior official said that, while there was
broad support for creating an international emissions trading
or carbon offsetting system, work on the feasibility and on
implementing such a scheme would take "a substantial period of
"I don't have any basis for projecting whether there will be
any agreement by the time of the 2013 assembly," the official
said, referring to the body's next meeting of all 190 members
late next year.
The official said that, although the EU was not represented
at the July 31 to Aug. 1 talks, he had briefed an EU counterpart
on what was discussed.
Observers across the Atlantic remained skeptical about the
ability of the ICAO to deliver a global alternative to the EU
They said a bill from the U.S. Senate's influential commerce
committee that shields U.S. airlines from complying with the EU
law sent mixed signals.
"The senators miss the point. Anyone can call for action at
ICAO. It's been a hobby of many for 15 years. So what?" said
Bill Hemmings, the program manager of Brussels-based lobby group
Transport and Environment.
EU Parliament Environment Committee Chairman Matthias Groote
said the Senate bill was a distraction and could impede progress
on a global ICAO framework.
"The US bill to allow their airlines to flaunt (sic) EU
legislation is disrespectful and counterproductive," he said in
a statement. "The EU and the US fully agree that an agreement
within ICAO is the best solution, so let's work in this
direction in good faith."
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill's office said the bill
she sponsored with Republican Senator John Thune would help, not
hinder the ICAO's efforts.
"The McCaskill-Thune bill compliments those efforts quite
nicely. It shows the U.S. is serious about addressing the
issue," the senator's office told Reuters.
McCaskill's staff expects to make progress moving the bill
forward in September, with the goal of putting it up for a vote
on the Senate floor.
Meanwhile, a coalition of U.S. business and airline industry
lobby groups urged the Obama administration earlier this week to
file an action under the ICAO, which would enable the body's
council to make a decision in a dispute between members.
The U.S. senior official said on Wednesday that option was
"not off the table," but the administration "doesn't have any
immediate plans to do that."
(Additional reporting by Barbara Lewis in Brussels; editing by