China air chief threatens to impound EU planes
12.06.12 @ 18:35
BRUSSELS - China might impound European aircraft if Chinese airlines are punished for missing Friday's (15 June) deadline on CO2 data, a top executive has said.
Wei Zhenzhong, the head of the China Air Transport Association, a trade group representing three of its biggest airlines, made the comments to Reuters during a meeting of the International Air Transport Association (Iata), the industry's global trade body, in Beijing on Tuesday.
"Chinese airlines are unanimous on this. We won't provide the data," he said.
"We would not like to see a situation of 'you hold up my planes and I hold yours' ... [But] the government will take at least the same kind of measures and these anti-sanction moves will be lasting," he added.
Wei's remark on "holding up planes" appears to be based on a misunderstanding of the EU law on CO2 and flights.
Isaac Valero Ladron, a European Commission spokesman, told EUobserver the ultimate sanction is to ban non-compliant carriers from EU airspace but there is nothing in the directive about impounding planes.
He noted that even the ban is a distant prospect, however.
Out of the 1,200 or so world airlines covered by the EU scheme, just 10 missed a 31 March deadline to give the commission CO2 emissions data for 2011.
If the malcontents - eight Chinese lines and two Indian ones - do not yield by Friday, then member states, such as Germany and the UK, where they have their EU administrative headquarters, will fine them a one-off fee of no more than €50,000.
If they miss the 2013 deadline for 2012 data, they will pay bigger fines of €100/tonne of non-declared CO2 emissions. If they "keep breaching the law for a sustained and long period of time" the ban might apply, Valero Ladron said.
In any case, the EU will not collect a centime of CO2 airline taxes this year and might never do so under its own scheme.
Valero Ladron said the current round of data-harvesting is a non-payment "training exercise" only.
He added that Brussels is currently working on a global CO2 airline offsets deal within the UN aviation body, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and that elements of a worldwide solution - replacing the EU bill - could be in place before the first EU-level payments fall due in April 2013.