EU carbon tax put on the back burner

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, Courtesy reuters.com

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, Courtesy reuters.com

THE carbon trading scheme for all airlines landing in and taking off from airports within the European Union (EU) was to have been implemented on Jan 1, 2012. Then, in a prelude to the planned implementation amidst objection from the United States, a spokesperson for EU Commissioner for Climate Change Connie Hedegaard said the EU would not bow to pressure from the US. (See US and EU cross swords on carbon emissions, Dec 26, 2011)

One week into its said implementation, China joined the protest making it illegal for its carriers to comply. (See Will EU calll China’s bluff that it will not cooperate on carbon trading, Jan 5, 2012) EU spokesperson Isaac Valero-Labron reiterated: “We’re not modifying our law and we’re not backing down.” There were commercial and political implications. Airplane maker Airbus backed by six European airlines petitioned the EU in support of the China position. (See Pressure on European Union to rethink carbon trading scheme, Mar 12, 2012).

More countries raised their objection while those airlines that saw no way out of the compliance said they would pass on the cost to the consumer, an indirect threat on how it would backfire on the economy.

By the end of 2012, the EU succumbed to international pressure to suspend the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), agreeing to allow the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to have another go at working out an acceptable framework. But Ms Hedegaard reminded the industry that the scheme would be reintroduced in a year’s time if ICAO failed. (See Carbon emissions policy setback: EU suspends scheme, Nov 12, 2012)

That was the beginning of the end. The day of reckoning has arrived and it looks like the airlines, bargaining for time, have won, with environmentalists expressing their disappointment with the EU Commission. If there had been a change of circumstances, the EU is pointing a finger at the slow economic recovery as a strong reason to support a delay in implementing any binding targets that can only retard growth. In the broad picture not confined to the aviation industry, the EU is proposing deeper cuts in emissions of 40 per cent by 2030 instead of the lower 20 per cent by 2020. The commitment as the EU suggested has not changed; it is only a matter of time.

Perhaps the EU has also wised up to the pains of taking the leader. Why should the EU make the sacrifices while the rest of the world continues to loll in the smog? Australia, for one, which would have had followed in the EU’s footsteps, had a rethink with a new government in power. The international community continues to meet to discuss issues of climate change at frequent intervals only to agree to disagree and to meet again. “It will require a lot from Europe,” said Ms Hedegaard. “If all other big economies followed our example, the world would be a better place.” But at the same time, she also hit out at environmental activities for making unrealistic demands: “We are trying to do something that is achievable, that is doable and practical.” Suggesting the difficulty of achieving consensus among 28 members within the EU itself on broad climate change issues, we can only appreciate how much more difficult it becomes when the issues have an impact across political borders.

There is hope yet as we await a recommendation from ICAO. Until then, it looks like the ETS has been put on the back burner, risking a natural demise.

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About Dingzi
Writer by passion, with professional expertise in aviation, customer service and creative writing. Aviation veteran, author, editor and management consultant. Besides commentary on business issues and life-interest topics, travel stories and book reviews, genres include fiction, poetry and plays. Nature lover who abhors cruelty of any form to animals, and a tireless traveler. Above all, a dreamer.

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