* EU plan would charge airlines for carbon emissions
* Economists urge Obama to drop opposition to plan
* Aviation bosses have lobbied against carbon charge
BRUSSELS, March 13 Top U.S. economists,
including five Nobel Prize winners, have urged U.S. President
Barack Obama to drop his opposition to charging airlines for
carbon emissions under a European Union scheme that has drawn
fierce opposition from airlines and governments around the
The 26 U.S. economists made their case in a letter that will
be handed to Obama on Wednesday. A copy was made available to
The United States, along with China, India, Russia and the
aviation industry, have expressed outrage at the European Union
scheme to require all airlines using EU airports offset
emissions of gasses blamed for global warming.
The measure would come under the EU Emissions Trading
European aviation bosses, among the latest to lobby against
the EU's scheme, wrote to political leaders late last week
saying aircraft orders worth many billions of dollars from China
were in jeopardy as a result of the EU law.
But the U.S. economists from leading universities such as
Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Princeton and Berkeley said in
their letter to Obama that the EU was doing the right thing in
trying to curb rising airline emissions.
"We implore you to support the European Union's innovative
efforts to place a price on carbon from aviation through the
emissions trading system (EU ETS), or, at the very least, to
stop actively opposing these efforts," said a copy of the letter
seen by Reuters.
"Today the U.S. is leading a coalition of unwilling
countries on a course of refusing to price this risk in the
commercial aviation sector."
The EU's law to make all airlines pay a carbon cost took
effect on Jan. 1, although companies will not face a bill until
next year and initially many of the allowances they will need to
offset emissions will be handed out for free.
Critics complain the EU carbon scheme amounts to a tax that
infringes on national sovereignty. The EU says it is not a tax
because it is based on buying and selling allowances on a market
and airlines can avoid costs by finding "alternative measures"
to offset their emissions.
European Commission officials have said they will only
modify their law if the United Nations' International Civil
Aviation Organization (ICAO) can come up with alternative global
scheme to curb airline emissions.
ICAO is expected to discuss possible options at talks this
"Rather than opposing the EU, we urge your administration to
support their efforts to price carbon in the context of the
ICAO," the letter said.
The Nobel Prize winning signatories are Kenneth Arrow of
Stanford University, William Sharpe, also of Stanford, Eric
Maskin of Harvard University, Thomas Sargent, New York
University, and Christopher Sims of Princeton.
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by David Gregorio)