EU’s climate program for airlines is not a tax

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EU’s climate program for airlines is not a tax

As the European Union gets closer to implementing a law to control greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, U.S. airlines are stepping up their efforts to mischaracterize and undermine the program by calling it a “tax” instead of what it really is - a market-based cap on pollution that lets them find the best and cheapest way to reduce emissions.

It’s no surprise. It’s the same tactic some in industry used to mischaracterize climate change legislation in the U.S. during the last Congress, and they’re doing it again to undermine Europe’s efforts.

The aviation sector today emits about as much climate pollution as all of the United Kingdom, and that amount is projected to quadruple by 2050. There will be a cost to reducing those emissions. But just because something has a cost, that does not make it a tax. Importantly, the EU law also gives airlines very broad flexibility to decide how to meet their caps. Airlines have wide latitude to choose among many competing strategies, and the competition among the strategies to deliver the most cost-effective emissions reductions help drive down the costs of all of them.

Why do the airlines want the EU law called a tax? Because they don’t like the law, and they want to argue that they shouldn’t be subject to more taxes. It’s inaccurate and wrong for the airlines to label the program as a tax on aviation emissions.

The EU chose a cap, rather than a tax, as the most efficient and cost-effective way to reduce aviation emissions. Don’t let the airlines fool you: the EU Aviation Directive is a cap, not a tax.

Annie Petsonk, International Counsel, Environmental Defense Fund, New York
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