BRUSSELS: The European Union should exert its right to impose carbon charges on aviation within its own airspace, the European Commission said yesterday, a step likely to rile emerging powers China and India and revive trade tensions.
A major retreat from previous legislation, the proposal from the Commission, the EU executive, might fail to satisfy critics both inside and beyond the European Union.
Following a United Nations deal struck in Montreal this month to set up a global scheme to curb aircraft emissions, the European Commission has to review its own law making all aviation buy into its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard has welcomed the UN deal, saying it would never have happened without EU pressure. But it will only take effect from 2020. For the period 2014-2020, she is proposing an interim scheme that would cover EU airspace, rather than entire flights into and out of EU airports.
“It is a sovereign right to regulate aviation in and around our own EU airspace,” Hedegaard told reporters yesterday. “I very much hope our partners will see this in the spirit in which it is being presented.” When the original EU law covering emissions for entire flights in and out of the European Union took effect in January last year, it triggered threats of a trade war.
Non-EU nations, led by India, China and the United States, complained the European Union was breaching national sovereignty and forced the bloc to freeze its law for a year to give the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN body, the chance to deliver a global alternative.
India, together with China, refused to comply with the EU law even before the decision to freeze it and haggled in Montreal for a further dilution of the agreement. China blocked delivery of European Airbus jets in protest at the EU law.
Speaking in Brussels last week, one of the ICAO negotiators said charges on non-EU airlines would be a problem.
“If the EU decides, and I hope they do not, they will nevertheless want to capture emissions of non-European airlines, then we will be back to trade wars,” said Abdul Wahab Teffaha, Secretary General of the Arab Air Carriers Organization.
Members of the European Parliament, which together with the EU’s 28 member states would have to approve the Commission proposal for it to become law, have also raised objections, saying the Montreal agreement is empty. REUTERS