U.S. airlines should be exempt from any European Union emissions trading program, a U.S. official said Wednesday.
Washington has "serious and fundamental questions" about the EU's plans to include U.S. airlines in an environmental program to trade pollution quotas, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration official Sharon Pinkerton said.
Since January, the EU has allowed companies to buy and sell unused emission quotas on an exchange as part of its drive to cut greenhouse gases and reach the Kyoto Protocol environmental goals.
It is now considering including airlines in the program, possibly beginning in 2008.
Pinkerton said the program should only apply to EU airlines and EU flights. She said she discussed her concerns with the European Commission this week.
Washington doubted the legality of including trans-Atlantic flights in the program, saying it could break international aviation law, she said.
She insisted the U.S. was committed to reducing the environmental impact of aircraft emissions but would prefer to work with a United Nations agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, which will report in 2007 on how airlines could cut carbon dioxide emissions.
The EU and U.S. are taking very different approaches to environmental protection. The EU has signed the Kyoto Protocol - a global anti-pollution agreement that sets binding emission-reduction targets.
The U.S. argues that Kyoto is based on suspect science and would harm its industry. It favors voluntary agreements and is investing billions in new clean-fuel technologies.
Pinkerton said she was confident the EU and the U.S. could reach an agreement, avoiding the need for Washington to take legal action.
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