New Delhi: India will not relent in its opposition to the European Union’s move to levy a tax on carbon emissions by aircraft flying to the continent at a meeting later this month, according to government officials aware of the development.
A high-level group of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) negotiators is meeting in Montreal, Canada, on 25-27 March to draw up a global plan to address aviation emissions.
“We are firming up India’s stand together with ministries of environment, shipping, commerce and external affairs. Our stand is that we should respect the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change),” said a civil aviation ministry official who requested anonymity.
UNFCCC, which is an international treaty on environment, contains no enforcement mechanisms and is considered legally non-binding. Nations such as India that have ratified the agreement have committed to a “voluntary non-binding” aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
India and other developing countries have always upheld the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR)” at climate-change negotiations, recognizing historical differences in the contributions of developed and developing countries to global environmental problems. It also recognizes differences in the economic and technical capacities of developed and developing countries to tackle climate change related problems.
A group of negotiators from like-minded developing countries (LMDCs) met recently to reiterate the position that they will take at the meeting, said an environment ministry official who did not want to be named.
The LMDC group shares common interests and priorities related to impacts of climate change and include countries such as China, India, Egypt and the Philippines, among others.
“On the issue of ETS (emission trading scheme), we are saying that market-based measures are not the solution. We first want all the countries to come up with a framework, based on mutual consent, and only then should measures come into the picture,” said the environment ministry official cited above.
The EU wanted to start including emissions from airlines flying to or from a European airport as part of the ETS plan. It had to postpone the plan following opposition from various countries including the US and Russia.
EU has deferred “the scheme’s application to international flights to allow time for agreement on a global framework for tackling aviation emissions to be reached in autumn 2013”, according to the European Commission website.
The EU has said that the levy under ETS is not a tax. Robert Donkers, minister counsellor (environment) from the European delegation to India had told Mint in September that the financial burden on India on account of the European Union’s (EU) proposed carbon tax on airlines will be minimal when compared with the overall levy. “India-related emissions will be only 0.2% from the total of aviation emissions under EU-ETS (emission-trading scheme),” he had said.
An advantage that LMDC will have at ICAO is that unlike climate-change conventions, the grouping follows a one-country, one-vote principle, said Prodipto Ghosh, distinguished fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) think tank.
“The political strength of like-minded groups was enough to make EU eat its words on ETS. Though the ICAO charter doesn’t differentiate between developing and developed countries, the reflection of the CBDR principle will be seen during this meeting,” he said.
The civil aviation ministry official quoted above added that India will prepare a report on this issue and submit it to the committee of secretaries. “And after approvals, this (report) would be submitted to ICAO,” the official said.
“We will have a meeting shortly at the high level,” the environment ministry official confirmed, adding that the EU will be on the defensive during this meeting as technically it has no right to represent itself at the ICAO. “Climate-change conventions recognise the grouping and thus recognize EU as a party, but ICAO only recognizes countries and not groupings,” said Ghosh.