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China is blocking orders for at least US$12 billion ($14.5 billion) worth of Airbus jets to protest against the European Union’s emissions trading fees, in a new challenge to the programme aimed at fighting global warming, the planemaker said yesterday.

With some analysts warning of a brewing trade war, Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath said his company was seeing “retaliation threats” from 26 countries, “in particular from China”.

He said 35 orders by Chinese airlines for A330 planes are on hold because China’s Government was refusing to approve them. Orders for a further 10 A380 superjumbos were also under threat, and the combined list prices of the aircraft was US$12 billion. “The economic impact is real,” he said.

Officials at the Chinese Embassy in Paris could not be reached for comment on the Airbus statements.

EU officials defended the emissions system. Asked about the Airbus complaint, EU spokesman Isaac Valero Ladron said: “I’m not in a position to make any comments about possible trade decisions. I think it’s in everybody’s interest to reduce greenhouse gases, which affects climate change, and airplanes affect that, as well.”

The emissions trading system went into effect at the start of the year as part of European efforts to reduce global warming.

Airlines flying to or from Europe must obtain certificates for carbon dioxide emissions. They will get free credits to cover most flights this year but must buy or trade for credits to cover the rest.

The United States, China, India and other countries are opposed and say the bloc cannot impose taxes on flights outside its own airspace.

EU officials have said they acted unilaterally because of a doubling of aviation carbon emissions in Europe between 1990 and 2006 and the inability of Governments to forge a global deal on reducing emissions.

Schaffrath insisted that Airbus was working to reducing emissions but argued that a Europe-only measure created trade imbalances.

China has said it will prohibit its airlines from paying the EU fees, and the US Congress has voted to exclude US airlines from the emissions programme.

Associated Press, 9 March 2012