* Chinese airline official warns of tit-for-tat plane
* U.N. official expresses concern over bilateral reprisals
By Alison Leung and Anurag Kotoky
BEIJING, June 12 China will take swift
counter-measures that could include impounding European aircraft
if the EU punishes Chinese airlines for not complying with its
scheme to curb carbon emissions, the China Air Transport
Association said on Tuesday.
The warning came as the U.N.'s aviation body expressed
concern about the growing threat of bilateral reprisals.
Chinese airlines, which have been told by Beijing not to
comply with the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme,
refused to meet a March 31 deadline for submitting carbon
A new stand-off looms after EU Climate Commissioner Connie
Hedegaard said the carriers would have until the end of this
week to submit their data or face enforcement action.
"Chinese airlines are unanimous on this. We won't provide
the data," Wei Zhenzhong, secretary general of the China Air
Transport Association, said on the sidelines of an International
Air Transport Association (IATA) meeting in Beijing.
EU member states can fine airlines for non-compliance or
carry out other reprisals including impounding aircraft.
"We would not like to see a situation of 'you hold up my
planes and I hold yours'," Wei said.
The Chinese airline group's members include the big three
state-controlled carriers - Air China ,
China Southern Airlines and China Eastern
"The government will take at least the same kind of
measures, and these anti-sanction moves will be lasting," Wei
He added, however, "We would try to avoid any trade war."
China is among a raft of countries including India, Russia
and the United States that have protested against the inclusion
of all flights using EU airports into the emissions scheme.
The EU's cap-and-trade scheme will effectively in most cases
charge airlines for emissions based on the length of the whole
flight, rather than just the portion flown over Europe.
Critics say this amounts to interference with non-EU
airspace. The EU says such action is needed to
meet the bloc's environmental targets and fill a vacuum left by
international failure to deal with aviation emissions.
The head of the United Nations agency responsible for
seeking a global solution to the row expressed concerns over the
dangers of tit-for-tat retaliation between Europe and China.
"We are very concerned about what is happening with
Europeans and China - retaliatory measures. We are very
concerned about that, because we want air transport to continue
growing," the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO)
president, Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez, told Reuters.
Most countries involved in the dispute are looking to ICAO
to come up with a global plan, but preliminary technical talks
have proved complicated, and some nations are seen as unwilling
to negotiate under what they see as pressure from the EU.
The EU has said it is prepared to withdraw the plan if other
countries come up a suitable global alternative.
"It's not about the money. It's an issue of sovereignty,"
said Paul Steele, IATA's director of aviation environment.
China, which according to Airbus and other sources in the
aerospace industry is delaying plane orders worth up to $14
billion from European planemaker Airbus over the row,
has asked the EU to push the scheme back by a year.
"ICAO will hold its 38th meeting in October 2013, and the EU
should at least push the deadline to that time and agree to
resolve this issue based on the coordination of ICAO," Wei said.
But ICAO, a body which sets the standards for safety and
other vital standards that underpin global aviation, is trying
to avoid getting dragged into bilateral disputes and keep the
focus on a worldwide solution to the dispute.
"The EU ETS is not in the discussion of the ICAO. This is a
bilateral issue at this time. But we have the mandate to develop
a global scheme, and that's what we are doing," Gonzalez said.