The European Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, announced on November 12 a one-year exemption from the European ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme) for non-EU airlines flying into and out of the EU. The ETS, which came into force at the start of the year, was to force these companies to compensate for 15 percent of their greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing carbon credits on the European market.
Hedegaard “is giving the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) until September to come up with an overall alternative to the European project,” writes De Volkskrant, adding that the measure “is still in place for the internal EU flights” and that, whatever the origin of the company, “that represents about 40 percent of the original scheme.”
If there is no agreement from the General Assembly of ICAO, “the European Commission will revert to its current stance,” El País adds. According to the Madrid daily, “the pressure has had its effect”, as the EU decision to impose its ETS on foreign companies went down very badly in international circles —
The United States responded by prohibiting American companies from paying the tax, India threatened to dynamite any possibility of agreement at the UN Summit on Climate Change, and China raised the threat of a trade war with the EU. The EU move provoked similar reactions in countries like Russia and Brazil. Europe now prefers to bury the hatchet in the hope of reaching a global agreement.
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“The announcement comes just weeks before the UN climate summit in Doha,” notes El País, however, “which could presage a change – for the better – on the eve of the negotiations.”
The European decision has – no surprise – been criticised by environmental organisations. According to De Volkskrant, some believe that, given “the vague promise from ICAO”, Hedegaard “capitulated too quickly”. Hedegaard herself seems to harbour some doubts about the proposal that will come from the ICAO. According to the Dutch newspaper, she reportedly has admitted that “we have no guarantees” that the alternative proposed by ICAO will be acceptable.