More than 99% of all major global airlines have complied with the first step of Europe's scheme to charge them for their carbon emissions.
The inclusion of aviation in the European Union’s emissions trading system from the start of this year caused an uproar from airlines in more than 20 countries, including the United States, China, Russia and Japan, but almost all submitted the required baseline emissions data for 2011. Only eight Chinese airlines and two Indian ones did not comply by the March 31 deadline.
Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action, said: “To put these figures into perspective, these  airlines represent less than 3% of total aviation emissions, so the bottom line is more than 1200 airlines from all other countries but China and India have complied.”
EU member states contacted the Indian and Chinese airlines to remind them of their obligations, said Hedegaard, and extended the deadline until mid-June.
The inclusion of international airlines in the trading scheme prompted failed legal attempts to kill the move. Subsequently, a so-called coalition of the unwilling has threatened to refuse to pay the carbon tax or retaliate against Europe. China has threatened to drop orders from Europe’s Airbus company.
In the future, airlines that do not comply could face fines of $128 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted or be banned from European airports.
Hedegaard said the EU was negotiating with China about whether equivalent measures could be put in place by the Chinese authorities that the EU would find acceptable.
Under the EU’s cap-and-trade system, major polluters are given allowances to emit greenhouse gases. If a company exceeds its allowances it has to buy extra permits, but if it cuts its emissions it can sell them.
Over time, the total number of allowances is scaled back to cut emissions and tackle global warming, but the trading scheme has a large oversupply of permits because of allocating too many and the reduction of economic activity caused by the economic crisis.
Initially, most of the permits are given to the airlines free of charge.
The European Commission estimates the trading scheme will cost Chinese airlines less than €2.5-million a year and Indian airlines €1-million a year, an “insignificant amount”, according to a commission source. – © Guardian News & Media 2012