The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] on Wednesday upheld [judgment text; press release, PDF] an EU law forcing foreign airlines using EU airports to pay fees for greenhouse gas emissions [JURIST news archive]. The finding that the carbon emission fees do not violate international law, as several US and Canadian airlines had argued, was expected after ECJ Advocate General Juliane Kokott issued an opinion to that effect [JURIST report] in October. The foreign airlines had filed for judicial review of EU Directive 2008/101/EC [text, PDF], which announced that airlines would have to comply with heightened emissions regulations while using EU airports beginning on January 1, 2012. The airlines argued that the directive violated the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, the Kyoto Protocol and the Open Skies Agreement [text, PDF]. However, the ECJ ruled that the directive does not violate the international agreements, noting that the EU is not a party to the Chicago Convention.
The EU insisted that it will enforce its new cap-and-trade law despite strong opposition from the US [JURIST report]. The new legislation will eventually require all airlines, including those of non-EU countries, to pay for their carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to encourage airlines to use cleaner fuels and to economize fuel use. Those who do not comply would face steep fines. In October, the US House of Representatives [official website] voted to shield [press release] US passenger and cargo planes from compliance with the EU law. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica [official profile] has criticized the law, calling it "an arbitrary and unjust violation of international law that disadvantages US air carriers, threatens US aviation jobs, and could close down direct travel from many central and western US airports to Europe" and a violation of international law and trade agreements. The change in the emissions law would greatly impact large US carriers, costing them an estimated $3 billion by 2020.