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People's Daily Online>>Foreign Affairs

Carbon emissions: a taxing problem for air transport

By Cecily Liu and Zhang Haizhou and Lan Lan (China Daily)

08:46, March 19, 2012

An Air China plane at an airport in Zhengzhou, Henan province. As the EU's carbon tax scheme arouses opposition from a number of countries, there are signs the trading bloc could soften its stance. (Sha Lang / for China Daily)

EU's strategy of levying a climate tax on airlines has provoked widespread criticism

The European Union has hinted that it hopes to avoid levying its controversial carbon-emissions tax on flights from China, if Beijing introduces its own carbon-trading scheme to cover aviation.

However, the debate is set to continue after China responded by saying that it will take time to set up its own market for the trade in carbon emissions.

Peter Liese, a member of the European Parliament and rapporteur for the inclusion of aviation in the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), said that the EU is willing to negotiate with China.

"We have noticed with great interest that there are discussions about an emissions trading scheme in China. If this scheme also covered aviation, we could exempt flights from China to the European Union," said Liese.

Starting this year, all airlines using EU airports are required to buy permits under the ETS. However, many non-EU countries, including China and the United States, have opposed the scheme and criticized it for being "unilateral".

Jiang Kejun, a researcher at the Energy Research Institute of China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said that Liese's suggestion would be feasible if China can set up an emissions trading market.

"It would avoid (paying) double fees. However, it will take time for China to build its carbon emissions trading market," Jiang said.

China has selected seven provinces and cities, including Beijing and Tianjin, to begin preparations for the pilot. Energy-intensive and highly polluting industries are likely to be included in the project.

"It's too early to talk about aviation because it must be based on a nationwide carbon emissions trading market. The regional pilot projects were unable to cover aviation," said Jiang.

Tensions escalated in February when representatives of 32 countries gathered in Moscow to discuss potential retaliatory measures against the scheme.

Following the meeting, Su Wei, director-general of the climate change department under the National Development and Reform Commission, said that the EU scheme violates international law.

For example, the Kyoto Protocol makes a distinction between the efforts that developed and developing nations have to make to address climate change, but these "differentiated responsibilities" are not accounted for in the EU ETS.

Liese criticized the Moscow gathering for not offering an alternative solution to tackle carbon emissions, but revealed that "behind the scenes, China, the US and others are negotiating on real solutions with the European Union", something he feels "optimistic" about.

Zhou Dadi, former director of the energy research institute of the NDRC, said that China will base its policy decisions "on Chinese conditions rather than buying the medicine based on the prescription given by the EU".

He explained that China is actively exploring effective measures, including establishing a carbon emissions trading market and imposing energy and carbon taxes to support low carbon development.

The top priority for China is to introduce energy and resource pricing reforms this year, laying a foundation for the carbon market and carbon taxes, he added.

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