A European Union law that charges airlines for carbon emissions is “a deal-breaker” for global climate change talks, India’s environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan, said, hardening her stance on a scheme that has drawn fierce opposition from non-EU governments.
US airlines have said they would comply, but China has barred its carriers from participating unless they are given permission to do so.
India on Wednesday formally forbad its airlines from participating, having earlier said it would boycott the scheme.
“For the environment ministry, for me, it is a deal-breaker because you simply cannot bring this into climate change discourse and disguise unilateral trade measures under climate change,” Natarajan said on Wednesday.
“I strongly believe that as far as climate change discussions are concerned, this is unacceptable.”
Natarajan leads India’s negotiations at global climate change talks. It was not immediately clear if her comments reflected government policy in India.
A European commission spokesman said the European Union was willing to cut emissions faster and more deeply than emerging nations, such as India – the third biggest carbon emitter after China and the United States.
“The EU has been asked to reduce emissions more and faster than developing countries. We are happy to do that,” he said.
“I don’t see why this should be a deal-breaker if both share the same objective, which is reducing global emissions.”
Any airline that does not comply with the EU law faces fines of €100 for each tonne of carbon dioxide emitted for which they have not surrendered allowances. In the case of persistent offenders, the EU could ban them from its airports.
The cost of compliance is much less significant at only around €2 per passenger for a flight from Beijing to Frankfurt, for instance, and that can be fed into fares.
Critics, however, have said their concern is the extra-territorial scope of the EU’s law and that it unfairly charges non-European carriers by making them pay for the entire route, not just the European stretch of the journey.
The European commission has said it was driven to making all airlines pay for their emissions after more than a decade of talks at the United Nations’ ICAO failed to find a global solution to rising emissions of greenhouse gases from aviation.
Since tensions have flared, efforts at the ICAO have gained momentum, although many environmental groups still question whether it can deliver a viable plan.
Outside the official ICAO framework, a so-called “coalition of the unwilling” bringing together more than 20 governments opposed to the EU scheme has held a series of meetings. The next is planned for Saudi Arabia around the middle of the year.
Before that, India wants talks with China and Russia to decide on a plan of action, a government official said.
“The onus is on them (EU) to stop a trade war. Once we meet China and Russia, it will be clear that there will be a wall between them and the rest of the world,” a government source told Reuters.
The EU climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, has repeatedly said the only reason for the European Union to modify its law would be if the UN’s ICAO could come up with a global plan to curb airline emissions.Writing in the Guardian this month, she said: “If we were to ask people who fly whether the polluter-pays principle should also apply to aviation I believe most of them would be unequivocally in favour … We cannot accept threats of all kinds of trouble just because a small price has to be paid for the pollution caused by travel while no one grumbles about paying for online tickets, extra luggage or seat reservations.”
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