(Recasts, updates throughout)
* Countries call EU plan for aviation discriminatory, illegal
* Countries to lodge formal protest at November ICAO meeting
By Krittivas Mukherjee and Michael Szabo
NEW DELHI/LONDON, Sept 30 (Reuters) - European Union plans to charge airlines for carbon emissions are “discriminatory” and violate global laws, a group of 26 countries including the United States and China said in a joint declaration released by the Indian government on Friday.
India, which hosted a two-day meeting in New Delhi this week, said delegates from the non-EU countries, which are also members of the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) executive council, agreed to lodge a formal protest against the EU’s new rules at the council’s next meeting.
“There was wide concern expressed by all countries present, without exception, that the unilaterally imposed EU (emissions trading scheme) measures were inconsistent with the international legal regimes,” the statement said.
“The legal infirmities in the EU laws were pointed out. It was stated by the various delegates that they were also discriminatory (to) carriers.”
The EU says it needs to put a price on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to guard against future climate impacts such as crop failures, droughts or flooding.
It has launched an emissions trading scheme (ETS) to help it cut carbon dioxide emissions, which it has pledged to reduce by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
From January 2012, airlines flying into or out of EU airports will have to surrender permits to cover all the CO2 they emit during the entire flight. They join some 11,000 factories and power plants already in the $100 billion market.
ICAO said the issue of aviation in the EU ETS is on the agenda for the 190-nation body’s next meeting in November, where the group of 26 countries said they will submit a working paper along with their joint declaration in opposition of the scheme.
Critics including the 26 opposing governments have called the “unilateral” scheme illegal, saying it violates the Chicago Convention on international aviation as well as some provisions under the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Three U.S. airlines are currently challenging the EU plans in Europe’s highest court, which is due to give its first opinion on the case on Oct. 6.
Although opposition to the EU’s aviation rules is getting more vociferous, the bloc’s executive shows no signs of yielding.
“The EU is not considering backing down,” an EU spokesman told Reuters, adding that the bloc’s executive encourages other countries to instead adopt similar emissions reduction goals.
The EU maintains that it could exempt airlines from countries that have adopted climate policies deemed equivalent to Europe’s targets.
But some nations have scoffed at the offer and retaliated instead through other means, saying aviation should be regulated on a global level through measures approved by all ICAO members.
China blocked a $3.8 billion aircraft purchase by Hong Kong Airlines from France-based Airbus at the Paris air show in June, sources said, adding to fears of a brewing trade war. (Writing by Michael Szabo; Editing by Anthony Barker)