E.U. warns airlines over emissions compliance

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2012, 12:00am


All international airlines except those from mainland China and India have complied with the EU law on offsetting their carbon emissions, the European Union's climate chief said yesterday.

Eight Chinese and two Indian airlines have until mid-June to submit information to the European Union on how they plan to offset carbon emissions. If they fail to comply, then the European Commission has the option of fining airlines that break its law, or, as a last resort, banning then from flying to Europe.

Connie Hedegaard, climate action commissioner for the EU said in Brussels yesterday the 10 had so far failed to comply with an order requiring all airlines flying into Europe to participate in the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

'We will remind them to report their data before mid-June, otherwise it will be up to the member states to apply penalties,' said Hedegaard.

But an airline executive said the EU had jumped the gun by releasing emissions data without the information from the 10 in an attempt to sideline mainland China and India as 'black sheep'.

Airlines and the EU clashed after the scheme was announced, and when Beijing entered the fray in February, it banned all carriers from participating in the ETS.

Under the EU requirements, global airlines are obliged to hand in their emissions data for their flights to and from Europe for 2011 by May 31. The EU said it had so far received more than 1,200 emissions reports.

The EU has warned the big four mainland carriers, Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines, that they would be fined by their 'administration state' in Europe if they did not file their data. Air China, for example, would be subject to a US$43,000 fine imposed by Germany if they miss the deadline.

The fines will increase as time passes and, ultimately, they will be prohibited from flying to Europe.

'It has put the airlines in a very difficult situation - that they either disobey their government or disobey the EU,' said Mark Watson, head of environmental affairs for Cathay.

The Brussels-Beijing conflict is poised to turn into a trade war as Airbus claims US$12 billion worth of jet orders have been put on hold by Beijing.

Hong Kong Airlines, which is controlled by the mainland's fourth-largest aviation conglomerate, HNA Group, said it would consider cancelling its order for 10 Airbus 380s after Beijing asked mainland carriers not to participate in the ETS scheme.

In a joint declaration in February, the US, mainland China, Russia, Japan and 19 other nations criticised the EU for imposing the unilateral scheme on all airlines and on all flights to and from Europe. They said they would boycott the ETS and respond with retaliatory measures on EU carriers.

In the face of mounting opposition to its ETS, the EU is putting a lot of energy into achieving a global accord aimed at reducing carbon emissions through ICAO, the United Nations organisation that regulates airlines, Hedegaard said.