China Pushes Back Against EU Emissions Trading Fees

China is pushing back forcefully against the European Union's new program to charge airlines fees for their greenhouse gas emissions, holding up billions of dollars worth of orders for Airbus jets in protest.

Airbus spokesman Schaffrath told the Associated Press that the Chinese government is refusing to approve orders for 35 Airbus A330 airplanes, and 10 A380 superjumbo jetliners, with a combined list price of about $12 billion. “The economic impact is real,” Schaffrath said.

An Airbus A380 flown by China Southern Airlines. Credit: flickr/Kentaro lemoto.

Airbus, which is the leading European aircraft manufacturer and the chief rival of U.S.-based Boeing, has forecasted that, during the next few decades, China will become the second-largest aviation market in the world. The CEO of Airbus' parent company, EADS NV, has warned that the emissions scheme would cause European companies to lose business. 

The EU's program, which began on Jan. 1,  is meant to reduce the global warming emissions that come from the aviation sector, which is a rapidly growing source of emissions. The U.S., China, India, and other countries are opposed to having their airlines subjected to Europe's Emissions Trading System, which allows companies that emit carbon dioxide, a gas that contributes to global warming, to buy and sell a limited amount of emissions permits.

Airlines fear the fees will cause them to lose profits and significantly raise ticket prices. Delta Airlines, the second-largest air carrier in the U.S., has already begun charging small fees to tickets purchased for flights to or from Europe.

The House recently passed a bill that would exempt U.S. airlines from the program, but that has not been signed into law.