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Making airlines pay for carbon dioxide emissions

The European Union wants airlines to reduce emissions or pay for permits allowing them to pollute. U.S. opponents say the permit fees would be better spent on new, more efficient aircraft.

Jeremy Hobson: The European Union's highest court has just ruled that the EU can force all airlines flying into Europe to pay for the pollution they cause. The U.S. government is opposed to the rules, which go into effect January 1st.

From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Eve Troeh reports.


Eve Troeh: The EU has legal limits on carbon emissions that cause climate change. Want to pollute more? You have to pay.

For years it's said: Starting in 2012, that law goes for all airlines.

Jake Schmidt: When an airplane lands in Europe, it will have to have shown that it's reduced its emissions, or has purchased carbon permits from some other source to make up the difference.

Jake Schmidt is with the Natural Resources Defense Council. He says the EU will give airlines free carbon permits for a year. Eventually, ticket prices will go up.

Schmidt: A maximum of $50 on a roundtrip flight between London and Paris.

But Steve Lott at the lobbying group Airlines for America says government fees are not the way to go.

Steve Lott: This money is better left with the airlines, who should invest in new aircraft, new engines, new equipment that will make them more efficient and reduce their CO2 emissions.

The U.S. State Department and Department of Transportation have now warned the EU it should not act alone on global emissions, and that doing so could launch a bigger trade dispute.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.
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Last time I researched it, airlines represented about 13-15% of all carbon emissions from transportation. Why should they get a free pass?

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