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EU carbon charges split airline industry

(AFP) / 7 February 2012

BRUSSELS — A split widened within the aviation industry Tuesday over EU charges for carbon emissions, as Europe’s low-cost carriers accused Chinese and US rivals of “gunboat” diplomacy against the system.

A day after China barred its airlines from complying with what many consider a tax, the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned that several nations view the EU scheme as an “attack on sovereignty”.

“Non-European governments see this extra terrestrial tax as an attack on their sovereignty,” International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Tony Tyler said in a speech to the European Aviation Club.

Tyler said at least 43 states have declared their opposition to the European Union’s decision to bring aviation into an Emissions Trading System (ETS) set up to combat global warming.

And after the EU’s executive Commission on Monday warned there would be no going back on laws that entered force on January 1, Tyler suggested commercial disobedience was a valid tactic.

“Some non-European airlines may have to choose whether to obey the law of their land or that of Europe,” he told an audience of aviation executives, EU regulators and lawyers.

Tyler called for a global deal to ensure a level playing field. He said this should be agreed through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an arm of the United Nations.

“This is an intolerable situation,” he said, indicating that a “trade war” was the likeliest outcome after the “bold action” undertaken by China.

Some airlines, including US carrier Delta Air Lines, have decided to add a surcharge to passenger tickets.

While the IATA represents 84 percent of total air traffic, its membership does not include low-cost airlines such as EasyJet or Ryanair.

John Hanlon, secretary general European Low Fares Airline Association, told AFP at the same event that his members — which he said represent 43 percent of European flights — “totally support” the EU measures.

“There is scope in the directive for exemptions where equivalent measures are introduced in other territories — that’s what the Chinese and the Americans should be concentrating on,” he said.

“Instead, they’re taking the gunboat approach rather than the diplomatic approach to getting a global solution.”

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