New Delhi: India will oppose the European Union’s (EU) proposal to tax airlines for emissions at the ongoing International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) general assembly in Montreal.

Currently, airlines flying to Europe do not pay any tax on emissions but the EU plans to soon impose this levy on international flights.

India declined to accept a revised version of the scheme under which airlines will be taxed only for the distance they travel inside the EU region and not for the whole distance from the originating country, as had been proposed earlier. “We are not agreeing to the truncated scheme EU has proposed," said an Indian aviation ministry official who asked not to be named. “The airline industry hardly makes profits. If this is added it will kill their prospects further. It is anyways illegal."

Air India Ltd and Jet Airways (India) Ltd that fly new planes to Europe have posted losses in recent years.

The EU had in 2005 said that under the emission trading scheme airlines using EU airspace will have to pay a fee for carbon emissions that exceeded a certain limit.

India is expected to take up the issue at the week-long ICAO summit, held every three years, on Thursday, the official cited above said. “All the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries are supporting India. US has, however, been shifting its stance a bit," he said. A delegation from the aviation ministry, including the Director General of Civil Aviation Arun Mishra and civil aviation secretary K.N. Srivastava, are attending the summit.

Air India and Jet fly about 80 flights a week to the EU, while European airlines fly about 190 flights a week to India, which could be impacted if the dispute over the emissions tax isn’t resolved.

An EU spokesman said such a tax is a necessity.

“This is a multilateral negotiation where you give and take. Only in return of a global deal, the EU has offered to continue emissions curbs for intra-European flights as well as the part of international flights covered by regional airspace up to 2020. We should not miss the bigger picture: a global deal means more emissions covered in the long term,’’ Isaac Valero-Ladron, EU spokesman for Climate Action, said in an email reply.

EU commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, said she hopes a way around the contentious issues will be found.

“Most of the countries which opposed our way to reduce aviation emissions said that we should rather have a global deal. The EU always agreed on that need. Now it’s time to show they mean it," Hedegaard said in an email. “The industry has expressed its readiness to support a global scheme, and a majority of the ICAO States seem now ready to do so as well. ICAO must seal an ambitious deal now, as this global deal is long-overdue."

The BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) group of nations that met on 15 and 16 September in Brazil have reiterated their opposition to any unilateral measures on international civil aviation, as well as similar intentions in other sectors.

“Ministers reaffirmed the importance of multilateralism, science and equity in addressing climate change in accordance with the principles and provisions of the Convention, and expressed their concern over measures that attempt to circumvent the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities," a statement issued then by the representatives of the four countries said.

The representatives said the discussion on market-based measures at the ICAO, including those undertaken within national jurisdictions, should be fully compatible with the principles enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol, and be based on mutual agreement and voluntary participation.

“The environment ministry has been against unilateral measures by any country on greenhouse gas emissions," said an environment ministry official, adding that the ministry maintains that position. The official declined to be named.

“The point is that it is not for a country to unilaterally determine the climate actions of other countries. Other countries can determine it for themselves or an international regime can determine it for all countries," said Prodipto Ghosh, a distinguished fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute think tank and a former secretary in the environment ministry.

UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol are international agreements to tackle climate change at the global level. They prescribe different standards of emissions for developing and developed countries, saying that developed countries have a historical responsibility.

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