Brussels: A split widened within the aviation industry today over EU charges for carbon emissions, as Europe's low-cost carriers accused Chinese and US rivals of "gunboat" diplomacy against the system.
A day after China barred its airlines from complying with what many consider a tax, the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned that several nations view the EU scheme as an "attack on sovereignty".
"Non-European governments see this extra terrestrial tax as an attack on their sovereignty," International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Tony Tyler said in a speech to the European Aviation Club.
Airlines have denounced the system as a new tax and warn that it would cost the industry USD 23.8 billion over eight years. The IATA claims to represent 84 per cent of global passenger and cargo traffic.
But the head of the European Low Fares Airline Association, who claims to account for 43 per cent of flights within the EU, said the United States and other opponents should work harder to develop their own plans to reduce harmful emissions -- which would then trigger exemptions.
"If your challenge is found wanting in the supreme court of Europe, it is time to throw in the towel and comply," John Hanlon told a news agency.
Tyler said at least 43 states have declared their opposition to the European Union's decision to bring aviation into an Emissions Trading System (ETS) set up to combat global warming.
And after the EU's executive Commission yesterday warned there would be no going back on laws that entered force on January 1, Tyler suggested commercial disobedience was a valid tactic.
"Some non-European airlines may have to choose whether to obey the law of their land or that of Europe," he told the audience of aviation executives, EU regulators and lawyers.
Tyler called for a global deal to ensure a level playing field. He said this should be agreed through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an arm of the United Nations.
He said the current, unilateral action by the EU had created "an intolerable situation," and indicated that a "trade war" was the likeliest outcome after the "bold action" undertaken by China.