Date: 27 Aug 2014

Towards a global scheme for carbon emissions reduction in aviation: China’s role in blocking the extension of the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme

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Abstract

In 2008, the European Union (EU) decided to include aviation in its Emissions Trading System (ETS) in order to realize emissions reductions in the aviation sector. However, the unilateral measure has triggered strong opposition from various actors, and now, the EU finds itself in the middle of a substantial power struggle about the creation of a global scheme for international aviation emissions reduction. China plays an important role as it has not only banned its airlines from complying with the EU ETS, but also implemented economic retaliatory measures, such as freezing orders of new European Airbus aircraft. Consequently, Beijing could successfully form coalitions with other countries to dilute international negotiations at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) assembly in 2013. The study reveals the hardships that the establishment of a global carbon emissions reduction scheme for aviation faces. It discusses the leading role of the EU on the issue, and provides a general assessment of possible responses to the aviation directive. It then analyzes China’s position on the inclusion of aviation under a global carbon reduction scheme. Finally, the study provides a prospect on how to overcome the diplomatic struggle in order to achieve concrete carbon emission reductions in aviation. As the study concludes, the EU and the rest of the world would be better off by refraining from unilateral mitigation measures and emphasizing more involvement, engagement, and capacity building in negotiating a possible carbon reduction scheme at the international level.