The US House of Representatives has approved legislation which would exempt American cargo and passenger airlines from a European carbon emissions charge due to come into force at the start of next year. John Mica, House Transportation Committee Chairman, said he had met with EU officials to explain that the move contravened trade treaties and international law.

However, not everyone was so quick to dismiss the scheme. Henry Waxman, of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, supported the EU’s efforts to combat climate change. He said it was not right for America to expect Europe to comply with US law if that respect was not reciprocated.

The Obama administration has made its feelings clear on the subject, saying that it objected to airlines not based in Europe being subject to the rules. The State Department said it did not think that Europe had adequately addressed the legal issues.

Under the new rules, all commercial airliners flying to and from Europe will have to purchase permits which will help to offset the greenhouse gasses they produce. America’s largest cargo and passenger carriers, including UPS, Fedex, US Airways, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, claim that the new charge will cost them some $3 billion by the end of the decade.

The EU has said that airlines not complying with the legislation will face heavy fines. American Airlines is particularly keen to see US carriers made exempt because it has a significant presence at Heathrow. Other countries objecting to the rules include China and India.