US airlines have lost a legal fight to block the EU’s plans for carbon permits, which are due to come into force on 1 January.
Industry group Airlines for America said it was considering an appeal after the European Court of Justice said the scheme to charge airlines for carbon emissions on flights to and from Europe was legal.
The initial cost is expected to be minimal but would rise to a whopping €9bn by the end of 2020.
Much of this cost is expected to trickle down to consumers, adding to the pile of charges and duties already linked to the average European flight.
American Airlines, United Continental and the Air Transport Association of America, who brought the case, said they would comply reluctantly until they decide whether to appeal.
But the US could stand in the way of widespread compliance. Draft law in the US Congress, if passed, would make it illegal to comply with the EU legislation.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton urged the EU last week “to reconsider this current course” and re-engage with the rest of the world on a possible global carbon tax scheme.
Airline industry body IATA said the decision came as “a disappointment but not a surprise”, adding that the success of the new scheme “will depend on how non-European states view its legal and political acceptability. In this respect, there is growing global opposition.”
• The UK government was less fortunate in its own green legal battles yesterday, when the high court ruled plans to cut subsidies for solar panels on homes were legally flawed. Energy secretary Chris Huhne was “proposing to make an unlawful decision”, the court said.