Brussels blinks over imposing a carbon emissions fee on foreign airlines against the united opposition of China and America
The news that the European Union has suspended the imposition of emission trading scheme charges on non-EU carriers flying to its airports is being reported very selectively, although accurately, in stories like this one.
The real story is that China has stopped buying larger Airbus airliners until the unilateral action taken by Brussels is dropped.
In a contagion of amnesia, the European media appears to have forgotten that in May Airbus officials told aviation writers in Toulouse that what is now the world’s largest aircraft maker would not open a second assembly line for its A330 jets until the carbon emission scheme dispute with China was ‘resolved.’
The EU’s attempts to impose its rules on non-EU carriers has also put it in strong dispute with the US, however it is China that is believed to be sitting on a large number of orders for the A330 family, the A350 family that will take over from it during this decade, and the A380.
This isn’t the case in America, where government has no role in centralised aircraft ordering policy.
Of course phrasing the decision to suspend the tax that the EU levies on foreign carriers under its ETS in such base terms as the loss of tens of billions of dollars in Airbus orders would have been tactless, but truthful.
Nor is it clear at this early stage if Beijing will allow all those orders to go ahead for a ‘suspension’ that in practical terms would extend not to the last quarter of next year, but to 1 April 2014, when it wants a ‘cancellation’.
Airbus must be hoping so, since while Beijing has shut down big Airbus orders, there hasn’t been any concurrent surge in Boeing orders. Although that could change in a flash.
As the Reuters story does make very clear, the EU is backing off to allow a determined effort to reach a global agreement on how emissions trading or carbon tax schemes will be applied to airlines. China has also made it very clear it isn’t opposed to a universally applied scheme that would reward or encourage airlines and aerospace enterprises for measures that reduce the use of fossil-carbon releasing fuel.
The issue comes down to unacceptable arrogance and chauvinism in Brussel, which proved so distasteful that it caused Beijing and Washington DC to actually agree on a trade issue on the grounds of Europe’s contemptible treatment of their respective sovereignty.