The New Yorker castigated President Obama for his “climate betrayal,” for his attack on global aviation climate regulations. Read staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert’s article, the best short overview I’ve seen of the global battle over aviation and climate.
“Some international disputes are significant for symbolic reasons, others for substantive ones. The current conflict between the United States and the European Union over airline-emissions limits is both. Unfortunately this means that the U.S. is doubly on the wrong side. The Obama Administration ought to be applauding the Europeans. Instead it’s threatening a trade war. The conflict over the limits, which are scheduled to take effect on New Year’s Day, has been brewing for nearly fifteen years. In highly condensed form, it runs as follows:
Back in 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was drafted, it included a directive for nations to work together to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from air travel. (Currently, aviation emissions account for only three perc ent of global CO2 emissions; however, that figure is expected to grow dramatically in coming decades.) The International Civil Aviation Organization, or I.C.A.O., was asked to come up with rules that its membership, which includes virtually every nation in the world, could agree to.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given the generally dismal record of such negotiations, the I.C.A.O. failed to come up with such rules. Several years ago, it officially gave up trying. At that point, the E.U. decided to step up to the proverbial plate. The European Parliament passed a law requiring airlines that fly in and out of Europe either to live within an emissions allotment or to purchase credits on Europe’s carbon market. (Essentially, the E.U. is just adding the airlines to its existing emissions trading system.) When fully implemented, the requirements should reduce greenhouse-gas emissions each year by the equivalent of taking thirty million cars off the road.”
Barack Obama photo credit: Elizabeth Cromwell, used under CC-BY-SA 3