Chinese airlines could be banned from operating to Europe if they persistently refuse to pay charges for their carbon emissions, the European Commission has warned.
The China Air Transport Association, which represents the country's four major airlines, including flag carrier Air China, is reported to have said today that it would not comply with the European Union's Emissions Trading System (ETS), which came into effect on 1 January.
In response, the European Commission pointed to the ETS directive, which allows for the imposition of an operating ban on any airline which consistently breaks EU law.
However, a spokesperson said this would be used only as a "last resort".
Other penalties could include a €100 ($130) penalty charge for each tonne of carbon dioxide emitted for which an airline has not surrendered allowances.
Airlines are due to surrender allowances for their 2012 emissions on flights to and from Europe in April 2013.
The China Air Transport Association could not immediately be reached for comment.