US told to go green or lose EU flights

United States airlines must pay for their pollution or face a curb on flights to the European Union, the EU transport commissioner warned last week.

Jacques Barrot issued the ultimatum in the month that limits on flights between the EU and US are lifted, the biggest shake-up in the transatlantic airline market for 30 years. Barrot said negotiations on a second phase of the treaty will include a demand that US carriers join the EU emissions trading scheme or an equivalent in the US.

He added that requests by Washington for data on passengers overflying the US will not be accepted by the EU, which fears that security measures across the Atlantic are becoming too draconian.

However, the environmental dispute with the US, which is refusing to let airlines join a “carbon trading” scheme, is likely to escalate following Barrot’s comments on the “open skies” negotiations.

Discussions on a second phase with the US department of transportation begin in May and Barrot said the EU has the power to withdraw flying rights if a deal is not reached.

“It’s always possible to imagine reducing the number of flights or suspending certain rights,” he said, adding that a member of the US Congress environment committee believed a deal will be possible once the Bush administration ends.

“He told me that attitudes are changing. Particularly with Bush and Cheney gone, there is a real hope of things moving on.” EU airlines must join the emissions trading scheme in 2012. The “carbon credits” involved could add up to £13 to the price of a return flight.

All airlines flying in and out of the EU must subscribe to the scheme but the International Air Transport Association has warned that 170 countries oppose the move.

European carriers want foreign rivals co-opted on to the scheme because otherwise they could offer lower fares. — Â

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