* EU officials to debate the issue on Friday
* Denmark concerned about environment, legal tangles
* Britain says EU Commission misread international mood
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Dec 5 Leading European Union states
Britain, France and Germany propose scrapping a plan to make all
aircraft pay a carbon charge for using EU airspace, documents
seen by Reuters show.
The combined weight of the three powers means there is a
strong chance they will get their way, pleasing trading partners
such as China.
In a joint document, Britain, France and Germany say they
are concerned about "the political acceptability and practical
implementation of an airspace-Emissions Trading Scheme".
EU diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said many
of the 28 member states agreed the European Commission's
proposal on charging flights using EU airports for their
emissions in EU airspace was impractical, but not all.
Denmark, for instance, has drawn up its own position paper,
saying the aviation sector must take responsibility for its
share of greenhouse gas emissions.
EU officials will hold a meeting on the issue on Friday.
An EU law on charging aviation for emissions has caused a
heated debate and threats of an international trade war.
Eventually the Commission agreed to suspend it for
intercontinental flights, but on condition a global alternative
was drawn up. The law has remained for intra-EU flights.
The U.N.'s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
in October agreed it would deliver a global plan to curb airline
emissions by 2016 for implementation in 2020.
The Commission's response was to propose just charging
aircraft for emissions in EU airspace, rather than for the
But Britain, France and Germany's proposal calls instead for
no charges before 2016 when the ICAO will hold another general
Environmentalists and some members of the European
Parliament have condemned the ICAO deal as far too weak and
accuse the big powers of being beholden to China.
They note that Britain, France and Germany all have an
interest in Airbus, which has played a major lobbying
China, which objected to the extraterritorial nature of the
EU law, froze Airbus jet orders in protest and some of those
purchases are still on ice.
"This is an extraordinary move by the big three repudiating
a Commission proposal and pre-empting parliamentary debate even
while the ink is barely dry," Aoife O'Leary, a policy officer at
T&E campaign group, said.
"Regulating aviation emissions in Europe's own airspace is
an environmentally effective fix to the aviation ETS after the
Britain says it is just being realistic.
Niall Mackenzie, a senior official at Britain's Department
of Energy and Climate Change, said in London on Thursday the
Commission had misread the international mood and was not
reflecting "global realities".
The Danish paper, seen by Reuters, warns of possible legal
complications of scrapping the Commission plan.
Possible legal issues, to which the Commission has also
pointed, include a lawsuit from low-cost airlines, which say
they are at a disadvantage.
These airlines operate almost exclusively within the EU and
have never been exempt from the carbon charge.
The Commission is also concerned about opposition from the
parliament, whose consent is needed to legalise any amendment.
Without its approval, the original law, covering the length
of intercontinental flights into EU airports, would reapply,
raising the possibility of a new outbreak of trade threats.