Europe’s Airline Carbon Tax Draws Chinese Criticism
Beijing. China urged the European Union on Thursday to heed objections to its plan of charging airlines for carbon emissions and to hold talks with opponents.
The charges, which took effect on Sunday, are aimed at curbing emissions of climate-changing gases, but airlines oppose them as an improper tax. The ratings agency Fitch warned last month the conflict could spiral into a global trade dispute.
“China opposes the EU forcing through unilateral legislation,” said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei. “We hope the EU side will be practical and deal with this issue through consultations with all relevant parties.”
The appeal came even after a European court last month rejected a lawsuit brought by US airlines and supported by the Chinese and Indian governments.
Beijing could have strong leverage in a possible dispute because its state-owned airlines carry large numbers of Chinese and other Asian tourists to Europe. Any disruption would hurt Europe’s travel industry amid a debt crisis and high unemployment.
Under the European system, airlines flying to or from Europe must obtain certificates for carbon dioxide emissions. They will get free credits to cover most flights this year but must buy or trade for credits to cover the rest .
The International Air Transport Association has said the European Union should negotiate through the International Civil Aviation Organization to reach a global agreement on the issue.
IATA, which represents about 240 airlines comprising 84 percent of global air traffic, estimates the new emissions rules will cost airlines up to 900 million euros ($1.17 billion) this year and rise to 2.8 billion euros in 2020.
“Unilateral, extra-territorial and market distorting initiatives such as the EU emissions trading scheme are not the way forward,” IATA said last month.
Environmentalists welcomed the program, one of the most far-reaching measures by any government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Although only 3 percent of human-caused carbon emissions come from aircraft, aviation is the fastest-growing source of carbon pollution.
The EU has said the added costs would amount to a few dollars per ticket and allow efficient airlines to make money, not lose it.
Already this week, Delta Air Lines added a $6 charge per round trip on tickets sold in the United States for travel to Europe.