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For Immediate Release, November 28, 2012

Contact: Vera Pardee, (858) 717-1448

President Obama Fails Climate Change Test by Signing Thune Aviation Bill

U.S. Airlines Now Shielded From European Carbon Pollution Reduction Effort

SAN FRANCISCO— President Obama undermined efforts to reduce aviation carbon pollution yesterday by signing a bill that shields U.S. airlines from a European Union law tackling emissions from airplanes using European airports. The bill, introduced by Sen. John Thune, allows the heavily polluting U.S. aviation industry to refuse to pay for carbon emissions permits required under European law. If Europe fines airlines for not complying, U.S. taxpayers will foot the bill.  

“President Obama signed a bill that undercuts the only existing law imposing any consequences for unchecked carbon pollution in the sky,” said Vera Pardee, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. "That is exactly the wrong way to move us forward in combating climate change, and a truly sad first climate-related act of the President’s second term. The bill allows U.S. airlines to thumb their noses at Europe’s reasonable carbon control efforts and means more greenhouse gas pollution at U.S. taxpayers’ expense.” 

Europe’s Aviation Directive creates a market-based carbon permit trading plan expected to cut airline pollution dramatically, with an estimated effect equivalent to taking 30 million cars out of operation by 2020. The European plan would add a few dollars to the cost of a typical trans-Atlantic flight, and because some permits would be free, U.S. airlines would have likely made money on the deal initially.

Europe developed its permitting scheme because international negotiations to curb carbon pollution from aircraft have dragged on for 15 years without results, undermined by procrastination and obstructionism. 

Aviation accounts for about 12 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. transportation sector and is one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon pollution, rising 3 to 4 percent a year. Per person, Americans are responsible for twice as much aviation carbon dioxide pollution as Europeans.

“As the climate crisis builds, the U.S. airline industry should stop seeking special treatment and start cutting pollution,” said Pardee. “Europe’s greenhouse gas emission rules are perfectly consistent with every nation’s normal practice of regulating aircraft on arrival and departure. Instead of attacking a sovereign government’s efforts to finally corral the carbon output of aviation, the Obama administration should have supported its allies in this sensible plan.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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