US carriers officially challenge the EU's ETS

Washington DC
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North American airlines are awaiting a response from the UK government to their legal challenge of the European Union's emissions trading scheme (ETS).

The Air Transport Association of America and three of its member carriers-United Airlines, Continental Airlines and American Airlines-have filed a lawsuit against the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to reverse aviation's forthcoming inclusion in the ETS.

Flights within, to and from the EU will be folded into the EU cap and trade system from 2012.

United, Continental and American are named in the lawsuit because the UK is overseeing their ETS compliance.

Continental president Jeff Smisek outlined his opposition to the EU ETS during an October analysts call. He said his hope was for one or more governments to sue to prevent aviation's inclusion in the ETS, "because clearly it is illegal from an extraterritorial perspective".

Smisek stresses that aviation is both a global and mobile industry, and having regional regulations related to carbon emissions doesn't work well. "Since our assets flow across the globe, we need to be regulated in a consistent fashion across the globe for carbon emissions, and ICAO is the right place to go", he explains.

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has roughly 21 days to respond to the lawsuit, which was submitted to the UK Administrative Court of the High Court of Justice, an ATA spokeswoman says.