One of Wales’ largest employers has urged Prime Minister David Cameron to protect jobs at risk by preventing a trade war with the China.
Aviation giant Airbus, which employs 5,000 people at its site in Broughton, has joined British Airways to lobby Mr Cameron and French, German and Spanish leaders to voice concerns about European Union plans to charge for carbon pollution.
The call comes as the Institute of Directors in Wales demands a freeze in air passenger duty and Labour attempts to require airlines to print details of carbon emissions on tickets – and specify how much lower these would be if the passenger travelled by rail.
Airbus and BA, together with Virgin Atlantic and six other aviation players, called on the leaders to “take action and stop an escalating trade conflict with China and other countries opposing the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)”.
They warns that countries opposed to ETS are preparing “countermeasures and restrictions” which include “such as special taxes and even traffic rights limitations”.
They state: “In China, approval for $12bn worth of Airbus orders has been suspended. Airbus estimates that this will jeopardise more than 1,000 Airbus jobs in Europe and at least another 1,000 in the supply chain.”
Stressing the gravity of the threat, they warn that “real concrete action” will have “serious consequences on the European aviation business”.
The chief executives of the aviation groups “fully expect the list of suspensions, cancellations and punitive actions to grow as other important markets continue to oppose ETS”.
Urging government leaders to defuse the situation, they say: “The aim must be to find a compromise solution and to have these punitive trade measures stopped before it is too late. We have always believed that only a global solution would be adequate to resolve the problem of global aviation emissions.”
A spokesman for the UK Government’s Department for Energy & Climate Change said: “Airbus and its investment in the UK are important to us. Airbus, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have made us aware of their concerns regarding retaliatory threats subsequent to the inclusion of aviation in EU ETS and we will continue to work closely with them to resolve these.
“We agree with Airbus, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic that the best approach is to tackle aviation’s climate change impacts at a global level. However, in the absence of a global measure, we support the inclusion of aviation in the EU ETS as an important step towards global action.
“We welcome the proposal from Airbus for industry to work closely with the UK and other member states to identify a way forward and find a solution.”
Meanwhile, Labour will today mon attempt to amend the Civil Aviation Bill to require airlines to print on tickets for domestic flights and European destinations details of carbon and how much lower these would be a train had been used.
Maria Eagle, Labour Shadow Transport Secretary, said: “High speed rail will increasingly provide realistic alternatives to flying. If the Government is serious about climate change then it should back this simple idea which would enable passengers to make informed decisions about the greenest way to get around Britain and the continent.”
And IoD Wales director Robert Lloyd Griffiths yesterday called for a freeze in Air Passenger Duty (APD).
Citing HMRC figures showing that in January APD raised £223m, up from £196m the previous year, he said: “Welsh infrastructure improvements are vital to business growth and, as a nation, we should be doing all we can to support regional airports such as Cardiff develop into thriving business hubs.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Airbus and the aerospace sector are important to our economy. Indeed, Airbus is at the forefront in improving environmental performance of aircraft. The new A350 is made from more than 50% of composite materials, such as carbon fibre.
“This will help to reduce fuel consumption by up to 25% compared with previous generations of aircraft.”