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China Threatens to Impound Aircraft Over EU Emissions Policy

China says it will take counter-measures that could include impounding European aircraft if Chinese airlines are penalized for not complying with the EU’s cap-and-trade scheme.

The China Air Transport Association issued the ultimatum Tuesday in response to EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard’s warning that carriers had until the end of this week to submit their carbon emissions data or face enforcement action, Reuters reported.

China’s threat of sanctions is the latest development in a mounting battle against the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme, which authorizes EU members states to fine airlines for non-compliance or take other action such as impounding aircraft.

Earlier this week, the International Air Transport Association said the EU must ease tensions caused by its mandatory inclusion of global airlines to its ETS.

CATA members, which include the three major state-owned carriers Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, refused to meet the EU’s March 31 deadline for handing over carbon emissions data.

China isn’t the only country that has protested the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme. India, Russia and the United States also have challenged ETS, calling it a costly program that interferes with non-EU airspace.

Thomson Reuters Point Carbon estimates it will cost airlines €1.1 billion ($1.5 billion) in 2012 to join the ETS, or a total of €10.4 billion between now and the end of 2020, assuming a carbon price of €12 per ton.

Major US carriers including American Airlines, United Continental and the association Airlines for America challenged through the court system their inclusion in the ETS, but dropped their lawsuit in March.

Airlines for America, whose members include industry partners Airbus, Boeing, Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney, have called for the US government to take action against the EU program.

Photo of Air China cargo plane by Flickr user Red Barnes, CC 2.0

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