South Africa on Wednesday urged the European Union to suspend for two years its controversial airline emissions trading scheme (ETS) to allow time for a global agreement on carbon charges to be worked out through the United Nations. The proposal, set out at a Geneva conference by Pretoria’s tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, won quick backing from a U.S. government representative and industry bodies from Europe and the Middle East.
“Aggressive unilateralism and extra-territorial measures are not the way to go in an increasingly globalized world,” he declared in a reference to the ETS, which has raised a storm of world opposition and threats of an aviation trading war.
To resolve the looming conflict in which many major countries are urging their airlines to boycott the scheme, van Schalkwyk said he was putting forward to the 27-nation EU a “firm proposal” to resolve the issue.
“Given that multilateral negotiating options are not yet exhausted, we call on the EU to do the sensible thing and suspend the extension of the ETS to aviation for two years,” he told the meeting, on environmental issues facing the industry.
An EU law that compels all airlines flying into and out of Europe to buy carbon permits to offset their emissions went into effect from Jan. 1, but bills will not be presented until April 2013 to allow time for calculating carbon totals.
On Tuesday, a senior Indian official said his country would tell its air companies not to buy permits or share emission data with the EU, and that it could later ask them to cancel planned purchases of Airbus planes from European aerospace company EADS if the dispute worsened.
China has already said its airlines must not take part in the EU scheme and has suspended the purchase of Airbus jets worth $14 billion, while the United States has warned of “appropriate action.”