Russia may block Siberia airspace over EU emissions licenses

PanARMENIAN.Net - Russia could close its airspace to European Union airlines flying Far Eastern routes if Brussels continues to insist that Russian carriers acquire licenses for carbon emissions, a senior government official said Wednesday, February 22, M&C reported citing DPA.

New rules obliging airlines flying to EU destinations to participate in a carbon emissions quota programme were discriminatory and constituted an unreasonable limitation of trade, said Russian Deputy Transport Minister Valery Okulov, according to Interfax.

If the EU continues to enforce the new rules, Russia could block its civil aviation radio frequencies from use by EU carriers making flights to and from the Far East, effectively closing Siberia's airspace to them, Okulov said.

Russian airline industry officials protest that the EU programme would unfairly penalize Russian carriers, who typically operate older and more polluting aircraft, by forcing them to buy more emission permits.

Okulov's comments came on the second day of an international conference in Moscow against the new EU scheme, which was attended by dozens of nations including the US, China and India.

A better approach would be to set up worldwide aircraft emission control standards through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), some speakers said.

In Brussels, Isaac Valero, a spokesman for EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, said the EU would be willing to “review” its legislation if a global deal could be reached through the ICAO, a United Nations agency.

But he warned that the EU was not ready to comply with requests to immediately suspend its programme.

Rather than “asking us for the suspension of the only functioning system that exists to address aviation carbon emissions,” the Moscow group should “come forward with concrete and constructive proposals,” Valero said.

Heads of 29 of the 33 delegations at the conference signed a declaration listing other retaliatory steps, including potential limitation-of-trade lawsuits within the World Trade Organization, which their countries intended to take against the EU scheme, Okulov said.

The US has already challenged the law before the EU's Court of Justice, but its appeal was rejected in December.

Since January 1, all airlines landing at and taking off from EU airports have been liable for their carbon dioxide emissions. But 85 per cent of their quotas were allocated for free and they will not have to pay for the rest until April 2013.

Commercial carriers in 62 countries are covered by the new system. The EU says it had moved unilaterally by introducing the new rules, after efforts at the ICAO proved inconclusive despite more than ten years of negotiations.

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