China air chief threatens to impound EU planes
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.
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"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.