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African airlines exhale after EU suspends ETS

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(eTN) – One of the world’s most contentious regulations, the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme, has been suspended for foreign airlines flying into EU airspace, at least until September nex

(eTN) – One of the world’s most contentious regulations, the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme, has been suspended for foreign airlines flying into EU airspace, at least until September next year according to reports received from a Brussels-based aviation source.

The issue, with EU Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and her staff stubbornly insisting that it was legal to impose EU rules on foreign jurisdictions, caused the start of serious trade wars brought upon the EU by such countries as China, which expressly forbid Chinese airlines to pay, Russia, India, and the United States, with Gulf states joining into that growing coalition, too. African governments in turn failed to make any significant noises on behalf of their key airlines like Kenya Airways, Ethiopian, South African, or Egypt Air, drawing the wrath to AFRAA, the African Airlines Association, which accused their governments of bending over and failing to unite.

IATA and ICAO have been working hand in hand in recent months to defuse the situation, and backed by countries opposed to the ETS rule, proposed that a global solution be found through a negotiated settlement rather than imposing unsustainable regulations introduced by one member block on all others.

IATA has been working on lowering emission standards together with aircraft and engine manufacturers for nearly two decades now, and ICAO, too, has a major policy initiative underway to promote “greener skies” while also warning not to make aviation an easy scapegoat for climate change woes inflicted on the planet by much greater polluters such as cars and industries.

Political observers attribute the climb-down by the EU to the fact that the United States expects a vote in the Senate for a bill exempting US carriers to be part of any such foreign schemes, setting the stage for legal non-compliance of American airlines should the EU reintroduce the scheme at a later date. This, as is the case with China, would then very likely result in the EU first slapping fines and eventually banning non-compliant airlines from flying there, perhaps even grounding aircraft of airlines they think are in arrears, triggering a tit for tat and grounding air transport.

Hedegaard has reportedly already warned the rest of the world that unless ICAO finds a common ground acceptable to the EU by September next year when the next ICAO convention has taken place, the charges would be re-introduced for non-EU airlines, come what may, showing once more a total lack of understanding of how international diplomacy and negotiations work before being globally adopted.

It was also pointed out that European airlines will continue to pay under the ETS scheme, prompting roars of outrage among European carriers which now have to carry the extra cost while competing in an already overregulated and increasingly restrictive regime with growing capacity limitations and night flight bans against American legacy carriers and in particular against the Gulf giants which have risen to be the new movers and shakers of the aviation industry in the 21st century.

A source in Nairobi, close to AFRAA said when contacted last evening: “If this is true, it will be good news. We can only hope that our governments will back airlines now and make their stand known through ICAO that we oppose ETS. Of course, we promote the use of modern aircraft among our membership and much progress is being made. Those flying to Europe cannot get landing rights anyway unless they use modern-day aircraft, and we know that even stage 3 aircraft will soon phase out from flights to Europe. But we maintain this complex issue needs a global solution, not a regional European dictate. And we resist that politicians today blame it all on aviation and continue to invent new taxes and fees under false pretences to save the environment when the money goes to general funds to plug budget holes.”

Kenya Airways and Ethiopian, the two Eastern African airlines flying to Europe from their hubs in Nairobi and Addis Ababa, as well as Air Mauritius, will be relieved by the news, sparing them significant expenses the EU administration would otherwise have siphoned out of their pockets.