The European Union is set to ignite a fresh diplomatic row following its decision to re-implement the controversial Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to all international flights within EU airspace. The European Commission last year suspended the scheme for international carriers in the face stiff opposition from Chinese and US authorities.
The publication of the EU policy on 16 October will see all international flights liable to emissions charges without agreement with governments outside the bloc from January 1.
The move is made all the more contentious since it contradicts a resolution made at the ICAO assembly just this month for a progressive implementation. In that resolution, it was stated that no country could include another country’s airlines in their ETS without mutual agreement. The EU, however, has sought to overrule the ICAO agreement via the 1947 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation.
The EU has made some concession, however, in that it has adjusted the original proposal that demanded international airlines flying into and leaving EU airspace pay ETS charges for the entire flight rather than the portion of the flight within EU airspace. Charges will now apply only to the portion of the flight within Europe.
Still, China in particular is likely to mount an aggressive repost to this most recent EU decision. Last year as the ETS was extended to international carriers, the Chinese government prohibited its nation’s airlines from paying any European emissions-related charges and threatening retaliatory exclusion of European airlines from Chinese airspace. The US also refused to comply. China and the US were instrumental in getting the European Commission to suspend the ETS in November last year to allow airlines to negotiate alternative measures through ICAO.
Now, with a renewed round of defiance more than likely, this latest European decision is likely to have a significant impact on Chinese airlines’ recent efforts to expand their hub services between Australia, the Pacific and other Asian countries through China to Europe, one example being China Southern’s recent push to encourage travellers to use its Guangzhou base as an alternative proposition to traditional hubs such as Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong.
Responding to the announcement, the director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) Andrew Herdman said: “We view this development with concern. The inclusion of international airlines without the consent of their respective governments is likely to meet with strong opposition, particularly from major developing countries.”
Herdman added: “We cannot afford to jeopardize the good progress that has been made in reaching a consensus on the development of a global market based measure (MBM) to be implemented by 2020. That’s where our collective efforts should be focused.”