China continues opposition to EU emissions plan

Updated: 2012-05-24 09:49

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)

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China's civil aviation authority on Wednesday reiterated its opposition to the European Union's imposition of an emissions trading plan on global aviation, despite a threat from the EU last week to punish Chinese airlines for not cooperating.

As talks have so far proved futile, the parties involved expect that a framework of market-based measures, which will be submitted next year to the International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly for review, might put an end to disputes over the issue.

Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said on Wednesday that Chinese airlines have not provided emission data to the EU and will not do so even though the EU warned about punitive measures.

"The air transport industry is a global industry. ... Any regional policy should not stand in the way of global economic development," he told reporters on the sidelines of the 2012 China Civil Aviation Development Forum that started on Wednesday.

"Some of the rules will clearly not play an active role in promoting the industry's development," he said.

China will talk with the EU about this issue, and "I believe negotiations will help solve the problem," he said.

All flights departing or landing at EU airports have to participate in the emissions trading plan starting Jan 1, 2012.

Airlines that exceed their carbon dioxide limit will have to buy unused quotas from more energy-efficient businesses or face a fine.

However, emissions will be calculated from a flight's point of departure, including emissions outside EU airspace.

China is not the only country opposing the plan.

Susan L. Kurland, assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs of the US Department of Transportation, said at the forum that the move to include non-EU airlines in the emissions trading plan is the wrong way to achieve the right objective.

She said the US will continue to urge the EU to halt the application of the plan to non-EU airlines.

Matthew Baldwin, director for air transport of the European Commission, said at the forum that the EU wants to tackle the aviation emission issue through a global solution.

He said the EU does not want to see antagonism or a trade war. In the event of a global solution at the International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly next year, the EU is fully ready to review and amend the plan, he said in a group interview at the forum.

The assembly in 2010 decided that a market-based framework would be submitted to the next assembly in 2013 for review.

Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez, president of the International Civil Aviation Organization Council, said on the sidelines of the forum that in June the council would consider market-based measures and recommend one or two to the assembly.

But the market-based measures are not a mandatory solution to address the aviation emission issue, insiders said.

Gonzalez stressed that apart from market-based measures, the organization believes technical and operational measures as well as alternative fuel can all help achieve the goal.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China has invested at least 600 million yuan ($95 million) since 2007 on renovating facilities to reduce the aviation industry's consumption and emission, said CAAC head Li.

Data showed that thanks to the measures, the country's aviation industry's energy consumption has been reduced by 9 percent, he said.

For example, major airports in China have updated facilities in the past few years to allow planes to recharge from ground electricity sources after landing.

In the past, planes used to recharge via engines, which increases emissions, said Zhong Ning, the CAAC's publicity official.

Buying new planes to replace old ones and optimizing airspace management are also effective measures China has taken to reduce airplane emissions, she said.

The EU asked airlines to submit their emission data before the end of April 2012.

Connie Hedegaard, the EU's commissioner for climate action, said on May 15 that only eight Chinese airlines and two Indian airlines have yet to submit their emission data to the EU. She warned that the EU would impose punishments on them if they do not report the data by mid-June.