China objects to EU carbon emission plan

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China is urging the European Union to drop a plan that would force international airlines to buy special permits for carbon emissions. The Chinese aviation watchdog is one of many to oppose the EU plan to compel non-European airlines to take part in the bloc's Emission Trading Scheme, or ETS.

The EU says ETS is vital in pushing the aviation sector as a whole to clean up its act. But China and other countries are condemning it is an unreasonable, unilateral demand that will cost airlines tens of millions of dollars every year. But, as Vanessa Mock reports from Brussels, the EU seems determined to go ahead.

The skies over Europe are turning into a political battlefield. Global airlines that want to fly here will soon have to buy permits to offset their carbon emissions. The EU is introducing the controversial scheme as part of its fight against climate change. And in order to work, the EU insists that everyone has to come on board.

Isaac Valero-Ladron, European Commission Spokesman for Climate Change, said: "The airline market is a global market and it’s only normal that airlines touching down or taking off from Europe are accountable for their emissions. Otherwise it would be discriminatory."

But this week China called on the EU to drop its emissions trading scheme. And many others are also taking action.

Victoria Moores from Association for European Airlines said: "We’ve seen in the US a legal challenge mounted by the some US airlines against the emissions trading scheme. And also a bill coming through the US House which would make it illegal for US airlines to comply with the new European regulations. Beyond that we’ve seen vocal opposition from India, from Russia."

China says the Emissions Trading Scheme will cost its airlines 800 million yuan a year - that’s over 90 billions Euros. And that would in turn push up the price for passengers, at a time when the industry is being hit by the economic slowdown.

But the EU says it has yet to see a credible alternative plan from Beijing to cut down its emissions.

Isaac Valero-Ladron said: "We’ve very much looking forward to having a concrete measure from the Chinese."

Reporter: “But if that measure is not forthcoming, on the first of January they have to fall into line with what the EU is asking?

Isaac: That is correct.

The aviation sector accounts for over three per cent of greenhouse gases. too much, says Brussels, which is calling on it improve their design and reduce fuel consumption

Reporter: "The EU says it gave advance warning of its new emissions trading system. But evidently not enough because last week, the United Nations body for the aviation sector, the ICAO, said it was against the plan to force non European airlines to sign up and called for a rethink."

Victoria Moores said: "The EU’s stance is this timing issue, that to wait for a global solution will take too long and that they have to take the lead. But to take the lead, you need followers and the problem is that they have not yet secured that essential international buy-in to make this a success."

Now the EU has just two months to convince others that its vision for clean skies is the best option for everyone.

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