The diplomat spoke hours after Louis Gallois, chief executive of Airbus parent EADS, had complained that the aircraft firm was suffering “retaliatory measures” from China including a refusal to approve orders for long-haul jets.
“I think that this should be seen as a show of the strength of China’s opposition to the inclusion of aviation in the ETS,” the senior diplomat told EurActiv, speaking on condition of anonymity.
But if no agreement could be reached, “this will not be the end of the counter-measures,” he warned.
“We do not want a trade war,” the official continued. “We hope that the EU will make a smart decision so that we can resolve this with our international friends and partners, in the framework of the ICAO," he said, referring to the International Civil Air Organisation.
The official, who had not received instructions from Beijing, said he was speaking in a personal capacity.
Isaac Valero Ladron, the spokesman for Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, welcomed the diplomat's recognition of the need to address aviation as a priority.
“Now we need to continue the serious work at ICAO to reach a global agreement,” he told EurActiv in a written statement.
“The EU remains truly committed to make this happen,” he said. “In the event of an ambitious global agreement in force, we will review our legislation.''
Negotiators at the ongoing ICAO talks are said to have whittled down their various options to two: a global cap and trade system, or an offsetting scheme.
Baseline and credit
The global trading scheme could resemble either the EU’s ETS, or a ‘baseline and credit’ scheme – favoured by Washington – in which airlines could sell carbon permits if their emissions were below an agreed baseline, or buy them if they were above.
More simply, the offsetting scheme would involve a levy on aviation emissions to raise funds for climate-related projects.
EurActiv understands that an ad-hoc group is working to resolve the issue and EU diplomats say that they are hopeful a global solution can be found by the year’s end.
“We have a little bit of time because the quota restitution – the moment at which airlines will have to pay for the carbon credits they have issued in 2012 – arrives only in April 2013," one senior EU diplomat told EurActiv.
"This leaves us time to find solutions.”