The European Union's landmark effort to charge foreign airlines for carbon emitted on flights in and out of Europe was already failing by the time French President Francois Hollande shared his deep concerns with the European Commission chief in October.The US aviation industry had mustered fierce political opposition, China was threatening to withhold aircraft orders from Airbus and the most influential European nations feared retaliation against their national carriers. Chinese and Indian airlines refused to submit emissions data; US lawmakers were readying a law that could make it illegal to pay the tariff.Ultimately it came down to an economy-versus-environment debate, with issues of national sovereignty and freedom of the skies also playing a decisive role in grounding the effort for now, to the relief of global carriers and aircraft makers whose businesses stood to lose out.Direct pressure from the EU's three most powerful members, and France in particular, forced a one-year postponement of one of the most contentious efforts to curb global greenhouse gas emissions since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, according to European sources familiar with the negotiations.France's Hollande, nervous about the possible job losses at major French and European employer Airbus, raised the issue with EC President Jose Manuel Barroso at a meeting in Brussels in October, one of dozens of such encounters focused mainly on taming the debt crisis, one of the sources said.Barroso decided the European Commission needed to make its move before the United States finalised a law that would formally shield its airlines from complying "so as not to be seen to be pushed," said the source, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the disclosures.Weeks later, on November 12, EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told a hastily convened news conference that she was "stopping the clock" for a year before enforcing the law, a painful about-face on a signature initiative that has become the latest example of how difficult it remains to tackle climate change globally."Hedegaard was under extreme pressure," one senior EU official said. Another source said Britain, France and Germany were pushing to abandon the inclusion of aviation altogether. Hedegaard held out for a freeze with automatic reimposition of the law if no progress were made at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the United Nations' aviation body."(Hedegaard) fought very, very hard for a year-long freeze," said the source. "Barroso backed her."The delay took both environmental campaigners and industry by surprise, although pressure had been building steadily for months, even as the EC steadfastly defended the law.A day after Hedegaard's news conference, the US Congress approved the EU Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act, which can be used to shelter US airlines from compliance with the EU law. US President Barack Obama signed the act on November 27.Less than two weeks later, Chinese carrier China Eastern Airlines announced plans to buy 60 Airbus aircraft, a reversal of its earlier threats to withhold orders from Airbus because of the EU law. Fellow carrier China Southern ordered a further 10 Airbus aircraft last week.China buys more than one in five Airbus planes currently being produced, according to the European aircraft maker.Source: Reuters
Gravity always wins!