European airlines have increased pressure on the European Union to suspend the inclusion of aviation in its Emissions Trading System (ETS), following concern that EU carriers will be the "major losers" in the event of a trade war.
More than 20 non-EU countries are due to meet later this month to discuss how to take their opposition to the ETS further, including the possibility of retaliatory measures. China has already banned its carriers from complying with the EU directive, according to a statement on the government's website.
But the EU has refused to bow down to the mounting international pressure.
"In a stalemate scenario, the major losers will be the EU and EU carriers," warned Simon McNamara, deputy director general of the European Regions Airline Association, at the Aviation Carbon 2012 conference in London yesterday.
"In the current economic environment, the last thing we need in Europe is some kind of trade war or retaliatory measures," he added. "It would saddle EU carriers with more cost and make Europe less competitive."
Agreeing with McNamara, British Airways head of environment Jonathon Counsell said the EU should compensate European airlines affected by non-compliance from international carriers.
McNamara called for the EU to suspend the ETS while the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) works on a global framework to reduce aviation emissions.
"It would mean a delay, but only of two to three years," he said.
But this was immediately ruled out by the European Commission's Philip Good: "That's not the way we work; the ETS is a piece of law. We're perfectly willing to come forward with a revised legislative proposal (in the event of a global deal), but that process typically can take two years to go through Brussels, so I don't think it's realistic to think the legislation could be suspended."
Good said it would be easier and quicker for non-EU countries to put in place equivalent measures for reducing their emissions, which would exempt them from paying the ETS charge on inbound flights to EU member states.
He said the Commission had engaged in "serious conversations" with several countries about what could constitute an equivalent measure, although he admitted many would likely wait to see what ICAO produces at the end of this year before taking those conversations further.