Monday, 30th October 2017

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Big fight over flight emission norms

India is likely to join forces with China to lobby for changes - and even partially block - in a UN-brokered global deal to freeze carbon emissions by the aviation industry at 2020 levels.

By Jayanta Roy Chowdhury
  • Published 29.08.16
  •  

New Delhi, Aug. 28: India is likely to join forces with China to lobby for changes - and even partially block - in a UN-brokered global deal to freeze carbon emissions by the aviation industry at 2020 levels.

The United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) will meet next month to finalise the deal that could slow down aviation growth in Asia, besides imposing a carbon emission fee on airlines.

The deal, backed by US negotiators, is being reluctantly supported by the European Union (EU), which at one stage wanted even tougher measures, including punitive taxes on airlines flying to Europe.

Officials said New Delhi had made it clear that it would not agree to the move, which seeks to oblige airlines with international flights to neutralise their emissions through the purchase of offset credits.

India and China also have misgivings about efforts to freeze emissions by 2020 through a structured process, which ICAO sources say will stretch till 2026.

"Ours are developing markets which are still growing at a phenomenal rate. The European and American markets are mature with little scope for growth. They can cap their carbon emissions anytime. If we do, we will be depriving our people from accessing airlines... we need more time for a cap to come in place," said top officials involved in the negotiations.

In June, passenger traffic grew 17 per cent in India and 14 per cent in China, according to the Airports Council International.

A draft proposal has differentiated the cost of capping carbon emissions between developed and developing nations, but not to the satisfaction of emerging aviation powers such as China, India, Brazil or even Korea.

Earlier this year, a joint statement issued by China, India, Brazil, Russia, Argentina and Saudi Arabia said they were "concerned the draft proposal may impose an inappropriate economic burden on developing countries, where the international aviation market is still maturing".

Aviation was excluded from last year's global climate consensus in Paris when countries agreed to limit the rise in global temperatures to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Aviation emissions account for 2-5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Tech hurdle

Analysts said more efficient engines, lighter aircraft and use of bio-fuels could slow the rate of emissions. But such modifications would hamper the growth of the passenger aircraft industry, dominated by the West, in countries such as Brazil, India and China.

Some years back, the European Union had tried to slap a carbon emission tax on airlines flying to Europe.

However, a group of 26 nations, including India, China, Canada, Russia and South Africa opposed the move. China and India even threatened retaliatory tax on European airlines. Beijing went a step further and blocked a $3.8-billion purchase from Airbus .

The brouhaha over the tax, forced the EU to back-track and agree to mandate the ICAO to broker a global deal on airline carbon emissions.

If a deal is not brokered by 2017, the EU has threatened to ask all airlines - irrespective of the country they belong to - to get emission permits. This means airlines will have to pay tax on their carbon emissions within the EU airspace.