India's environment minister yesterday threatened to boycott future climate-change talks unless the European Union reverses its decision to levy emission charges on international flights.
"For me, it is a deal-breaker," said Jayanthi Natarajan, the minister. "It is just not done to bring this into the climate-change discourse and impose this kind of disguised trade measure in the name of climate change."
The controversial EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which came into force on January 1, requires all airlines flying into or over EU countries to pay a levy on their carbon emissions.
The move has attracted widespread international opposition.
China's government has ordered its airlines to refuse to pay the levy, and has frozen orders for 55 Airbus airliners from the European plane maker in retaliation. India has already requested its airlines to "refuse to cooperate" with the ETS payment system; airlines from the United States are involved in legal action, and Russia has threatened to ban European airlines.
The EU said it introduced the ETS because the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which oversees global air travel, had so far failed to address the airline emissions issue despite deliberating on the problem for more than a decade. Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate change commissioner, has repeatedly said the EU will repeal the ETS only if the ICAO delivers a global airline emissions scheme.
"In the world of the 21st century, it makes sense to make polluters pay," Ms Hedegaard said last month. "If Europe has a law that somebody does not like, it's not right that by threatening us they think they can make a democratic system change democratically made laws."
Under the ETS, airlines are asked to pay for every tonne of carbon dioxide emitted on every flight that enters EU airspace.
Airlines failing to pay will be fined €100 (Dh482) for each tonne of carbon dioxide emitted. In the case of persistent offenders, the EU has reserved the right to ban the airline from its airports.
The European Court of Justice in a ruling in December said the EU's law was consistent with international law.
Ms Natarajan told reporters in Delhi yesterday that the ETS was in violation of the principles and provisions of international conventions and that the ETS imposition would have an impact on the future climate-change negotiations. She said that she had written to Ms Hedegaard demanding that the ETS be scrapped.
India was one of the nations that held up a European plan to unblock UN climate talks in Durban last December, arguing that it would take too long to negotiate and would lead to weaker pledges by wealthy countries.
The next annual UN climate-change summit is scheduled to take place in Doha at the end of the year.