NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India formally joined China in asking its airlines to boycott the European Union’s carbon scheme, confirming what a senior Indian government source previously told Reuters and stoking a diplomatic row over the issue.
“Though the European Union EU.L has directed Indian carriers to submit emission details of their aircraft by March 31, 2012, no Indian carrier is submitting them in view of the position of the government,” India’s civil aviation minister Ajit Singh said on Thursday.
“Hence the imposition of a carbon tax does not arise,” Singh told lawmakers in a written reply.
The European Commission was not immediately available to comment.
India’s opposition to the Emission Trading Scheme ETS.L could damage the chances of the Free Trade Agreement FTA.L it is negotiating with the EU.
On Monday, a senior government official told Reuters that India would ask local airlines not to buy carbon credits from or share emissions data with the bloc.
The row is over a scheme which could levy charges for carbon emissions for flights in and out of Europe.
Any showdown with the EU will add to differences between India and the bloc over duties on cars and market access for software and services companies already in the way of the FTA.
“It would probably be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get the FTA through the (European) parliament if India does this (ignores the EU’s ETS aviation law) and India is in the last stage of this negotiation,” said Glyn Ford, a former European lawmaker who now works at Brussels-based consultancy GPlus.
Foreign governments, including the world’s top three carbon emitters - the United States, China and India - say the EU is exceeding its legal jurisdiction by charging for an entire flight, as opposed to just the part covering European airspace.
Singh said local airlines would not comply with a request by the EU to submit their emission details by March 31, and a “basket of measures” was available to the Indian government to counter the scheme.
In a meeting last month in Moscow of the so-called “coalition of the unwilling”, countries opposed to the EU law including India agreed on retaliatory steps, although it did not agree on enforcing them.
China said in February its airlines were barred from participating in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme unless they won government approval. Beijing has also suspended the purchase of $14 billion worth of jets from European maker Airbus EAD.PA.
Under the EU’s ETS, no airlines will face a bill until next year after emissions have been calculated and even then they will be entitled to free allowances to cover 85 percent of carbon generated up to a benchmark level.
The EU’s Climate Commissioner has repeatedly said the EU will stand by its scheme unless the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization can come up with a global plan to curb rising carbon emissions from aircraft.
Additional reporting by Barbara Lewis in Brussels; Editing by John Chalmers and David Holmes