The European Union fired back at the UN's civil aviation body on Thursday, rejecting its call for Europe to drop plans to charge all airlines for carbon emissions when flying in and out of the continent.
Europe is facing a growing chorus of opposition, with the International Civil Aviation Organization joining US and Asian airlines in urging the EU to exclude foreign carriers from rules coming into force on January 1.
But EU climate action commissioner Connier Hedegaard stood her ground, saying the 27-nation bloc would stick to its plans while the UN organisation drags its feet on reducing the carbon footprint of airlines.
"It is disappointing that ICAO discussions once again focus on what states should not do instead of what they should do to curb growing aviation emissions," EU climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard said.
"Unfortunately, the ICAO has missed again today the opportunity to tell the world when it will table a viable global solution," she said.
The Montreal-based ICAO adopted on Wednesday a non-binding working paper -- presented by 26 nations including the United States, China, Japan and Russia -- criticising the EU's "unilateral action."
Hedegaard, however, said the move "will affect neither the EU's commitment to working within ICAO to agree on a global solution nor our adopted legislation."
The EU is already fighting in Europe's top court to defend its decision to include airlines in its Emissions Trading System (ETS), which furious US carriers say violates international climate change and aviation pacts.
The carbon trading scheme is used to charge industries such as oil refineries, power stations and steel works for CO2 emissions as part of Europe's efforts against climate change.
In 2012, airlines will have to pay for 15 percent of the polluting rights accorded to them, the figure rising to 18 percent in the period 2013-2020.
The dispute is threatening to turn into a trade row, after China reportedly retaliated in June by blocking an order by Hong Kong Airlines for billions of euros worth of Airbus aircraft.
The US House of Representatives weighed in last month, passing a bill directing the US government to forbid US carriers to take part "in any emissions trading scheme unilaterally established by the European Union."
The ICAO document states that the EU scheme "violates the cardinal principle of state sovereignty" by charging airlines for emissions released outside the 27-nation bloc.
The director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) criticised the EU plans on Thursday, saying it pits Europe against the rest of the world.
"Essentially, it's Europe versus the rest," said AAPA director general Andrew Herdman.
"Personally I don't look forward to a trade war, especially in aviation, because we'll be getting hit by both sides."
The Association of European Airlines (AEA) called for a global solution to deal with aviation emissions, noting that the EU's strategy lacks international backing.
"Over recent weeks, we have seen legal cases against ETS, bills to prohibit airlines from complying, vocal foreign indignation, retaliation and now a challenge through ICAO," said AEA secretary general Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus.
"Political conflict does not cut emissions," he added.
by Laurent Thomet
(c) 2011 AFP
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