London - A group of US airlines has dropped its private
lawsuit challenging a European Union law charging airlines for carbon emissions
on flights to and from Europe, calling on the US government to take over the
The new law took effect on January 1, drawing dire warnings
from governments, airlines and planemakers that it could trigger a global trade
war and damage the aviation industry.
The suit was originally brought to the London High Court by
the Air Transport Association of America, American Airlines and United
Continental, but the court referred it to the European Court of Justice (ECJ)
On December 21, the ECJ gave unreserved backing to the law, and
the case was due to return to the London court on Thursday. However, Airlines
for America, the Air Transport Association of America under a new name, said it
had dropped the suit.
A court spokesperson confirmed that the matter had been
withdrawn and the Thursday hearing cancelled.
Airlines for America said opposition to the EU law was now
so widespread that it was appropriate to drop the lawsuit and let governments
take the lead.
Despite the failure of its action at the ECJ, the
organisation said it had been useful in setting the agenda for those opposed to
the law, known as the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme or EU ETS.
“Our legal action was critical in bringing to light that the
EU ETS violates international law and is an exorbitant money grab, which are
now key points in the governments’ unified opposition to the scheme,” said
Airlines for America President and CEO Nicholas Calio in a statement.
“There is a clear path for the United States to force the EU
to halt the scheme and protect US sovereignty, American consumers, jobs and
international law,” he said.
EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard is in Washington
this week to discuss the issue.
The disputed law has a long lead time, so none of the
airlines face a bill until next year, after their emissions have been
calculated. The law requires all airlines flying to and from EU airports to buy
permits under the bloc’s complex emissions trading scheme.
The initial cost is expected to be minimal but would rise to
an estimated €9bn by the end of 2020. The levy would apply to the entire length
of an aircraft’s journey to an EU airport, including the section outside EU
As well as the United States, China and India have
complained that the EU went ahead with a scheme that applies to their airspace,
while the EU says it was forced to act after years of international inaction on
air travel pollution.