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24th Jul 2021

China joins US in battle against EU carbon rules for airlines

  • A snapshot of skies over the EU on Thursday morning, from the real-time tracking website flightradar24.com (Photo: flightradar24.com)

China has joined the US in looking for ways to get out of the EU's upcoming CO2 cap-and-trade regime for foreign airlines flying in and out of the union.

A senior Chinese official speaking at an aviation forum in Beijing on Wednesday (11 May) said its airlines should get special treatment because China is still a relatively poor country.

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"The EU needs to take into account the different situations of developing and developed countries ... So far they are insisting on carrying on with the plan," the chief of China's Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), Li Jiaxiang, said according to Reuters.

European Commission climate spokesman Isaac Valero-Ladron told Bloomberg the same day that China has applied for an exemption because it has plans to offset its planes' CO2 emissions in Europe with carbon cuts at home.

For his part, the chairman of China's airline trade lobby, the China Aviation Transport Association, Liu Shaoyang, said his body is "ready to sue the EU at any time ... All the Chinese airlines are against this plan - it is not legally binding and it is only useful in Europe."

From 1 January 2012 all airlines flying in and out of the EU as well as all internal carriers will have to cut emissions down to fit new quotas or purchase bigger quotas in the framework of the Emissions Trading Scheme.

The US is also a long-standing opponent of the plan, with American airlines battling the decision through international courts.

The EU opted to include non-EU airlines on environmental grounds but also in order not to give third countries' carriers a competitive advantage over soon-to-be-quota-bound EU businesses.

China's CAAC estimates the scheme will cost its airlines some €85 million in 2012 and €320 million a year by 2020.

Consulting firm RDC Aviation in a report in January said airlines inside the EU put 171 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, slightly up on 2009, but still below levels of 176 million tonnes seen before the economic crisis struck in mid-2008.

Air China alone accounted for 1.2 million tonnes, up 13 percent on 2009.

A long-term forecast published also in January by the Brussels-based air-traffic body, Eurocontrol, said the number of flights in Europe is set to almost double to 16.9 million a year by 2030.

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