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Public Statements

Hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee - Kerry Urges US, EU Negotiation to Address Aviation Emissions

Hearing

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Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today urged the European Union to work with the U.S. and the international community to come to a global agreement to address emissions from the aviation sector.

At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing entitled "The European Union Emissions Trading System," Senator Kerry said that fractured emissions standards and trading systems among nations cannot prevent allies from reaching a consensus on pollution that is fair to American consumers and airlines.

"Twenty years ago this summer, the United States began leading an international effort to forge a global agreement on climate change that would be fair to all countries," said Sen. Kerry, the lead author of the American Power Act, bi-partisan energy independence legislation in the Senate in 2010. "The story of why it stalled or how we dragged our feet and lost our moral authority doesn't need retelling. Other countries moved ahead on their own -- and now we have great concerns about some of it and how it could impact us. It didn't have to be this way. We should more forcefully explore our diplomatic options and if that fails, exercise our existing rights under international law for dispute resolution."

Senator Kerry's full statement, as prepared, is below:

Thank you Mr. Chairman. There is clearly strong interest in the American aviation industry and at the highest levels of our government in ensuring that the European emissions trading system is fair to our airlines and consumers, and properly applied. Obviously today we remain at a stalemate and tensions are high as the clock ticks towards 2013 and the start of the program. With that in mind, I would urge us all to be serious about what will bring us closer to resolution.

I want to be very clear about one point -- and about how we got here. I applaud the EU's initiative in working to put in place a comprehensive effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In many ways, dissatisfaction with some of the specifics of what the EU is implementing is a fate we could have avoided. Twenty years ago this summer, the United States began leading an international effort to forge a global agreement on climate change that would be fair to all countries. The story of why it stalled or how we dragged our feet and lost our moral authority doesn't need retelling. But suffice it to say, other countries moved ahead on their own. Rather than shape what they did within the confines of a global agreement, frankly, over many years, because of the gridlock of our own politics at home, we sent the message that every country should do whatever they deemed fit to reduce emissions. Well, that's what the EU did -- and now we have great concerns about some of it and how it could impact us. It didn't have to be this way.

But, now that we are here, let's also understand that neither the EU nor this Congress can solve the problem alone. As Secretary Clinton and Secretary LaHood have clearly and correctly stated, the EU's application of the ETS is inconsistent with the legal regime governing international aviation, and for the EU to argue that it is not bound by conventions to which all of its member states are signatories but the EU as a unit is not, is a precedent that would concern anyone involved in international law. Congress has already made itself clear in the sense of the Congress in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 that the EU should work through ICAO to address aviation emissions. Further, ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin has pledged to have a proposal on how to regulate airline emissions on a global basis by the end of this year. There could also be other solutions through negotiated equivalency standards or the like. My point is that there are many options to explore besides passing a new law threatening unilateral prohibitions on flights to Europe or establishing new authorities for the Secretary to engage in unilateral action. We should more forcefully explore our diplomatic options and if that fails, exercise our existing rights under international law for dispute resolution.

The Europeans are right to question the motives of some of those who oppose their efforts in India and China. I understand their frustration and skepticism and want us both sitting on the same side of the table. But only a global consensus can govern global commerce and though hard to reach, it is the only responsible route. I urge the EU to follow it. My goal is to bring us together so that we can, as allies and partners, promote a solution that everyone can accept using the venues our international institutions were created to provide.


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