Global airlines press EU for cease-fire in emissions dispute

Europe is strengthening its carbon pricing system for aviation. After having fought the policy under the Obama administration, President Joe Biden has a chance to show that the world has changed and that the US is now ready to support real climate action, argues Jakop Dalunde.

This article is part of our special report Greening aviation.

Global airlines today (11 June) urged the European Union to defuse an international emissions row as a group of nations led by China, the United States and India kept up their opposition to EU plans to force carriers to join a carbon trading scheme.

Europe has angered trading partners with its plan to make airlines cut pollution by levying a fee based on the amount of carbon emissions calculated for whole flights, not just the portion over Europe – a measure its critics regard as interference with their national airspace.

The head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said all parties shared the view that a global agreement was needed to head off the threat of a trade war over the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS).

"Europe seems more committed to implementing its ETS unilaterally than to sincerely negotiating a multilateral agreement," IATA director general Tony Tyler told a gathering of 240 airlines in Beijing.

"For Europe's international counterparts it's like being asked to negotiate with a gun to their head," he added in an opening speech to the group's annual meeting.

"Sustainability should unite the world with common purpose, not divide it with affronts to sovereignty that risk a trade war, a war that nobody wants and from which no winner can emerge."

China and India have ordered airlines not to cooperate with the scheme, raising the prospect of retaliation by the EU.

"The onus is now on Europe to seize the moment, take a credible action to defuse the situation and get on with finding the global solution that everybody is hoping for," Tyler said.

The EU says its plans are necessary as a way to meet international targets to reduce pollution, and that it was forced to act alone as a result of there having been little progress made towards reaching a global deal.

The airline industry fears being caught up in a trade war which would further dent profits that IATA says could be erased by a worsening of the European debt crisis.

European Union

  • Association of European Airlines: AEA
  • European Low Fares Airline Association: ELFAA
  • International Air Transport Association: IATA

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