A surprising development from a country not known for backing down from a fight:
In a sign that Paris has little stomach for a fight over global warming, Francois Fillon, the Prime Minister, urged the European Union to retreat over plans to tax airlines for emitting greenhouse gases.
His letter to Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, undermined the EU’s claims to be united in its drive to impose ecological virtue on the aviation industry. The plan to force airlines to buy pollution permits when flying in European airspace has been denounced as illegal by other capitals, notably Beijing, Delhi and Washington.
The so-called coalition of the unwilling is pledging to retaliate unless Europe backtracks. Chinese and Indian airlines have been told by their governments to boycott the scheme.
Their American counterparts filed a lawsuit before withdrawing it last month and calling on the Obama Administration to take the lead in pressuring Europe to drop its aviation pollution package.
In France, concern has been fuelled by Airbus, the European aircraft maker, which said that China had shelved orders worth $US14 billion ($13.5 billion) because of the dispute.
The company said that officials in China, which represents 20 per cent of Airbus sales, were withholding their signature on contracts for 35 long-haul A330s and 10 A380 superjumbo planes.
Air France, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, Air Berlin and Iberia joined MTU Aero Engines and Safran, the enginemakers, and Airbus in writing to European governments last month to warn of the consequences of a trade war. They said that thousands of jobs and billons of dollars of sales were at risk.
In his letter, written last month but made public yesterday, Mr Fillon said that 2000 jobs were under threat at Airbus and its suppliers because of the Chinese boycott.
Globalwarming.org has not blogged extensively about the ongoing airline emissions saga, though it has been covered in our weekly newsletter, which you can sign up for on our home page. The E.U. wants to require foreign airlines which land in the E.U. to purchase carbon credits for a cap-and-trade program the E.U. recently implemented. The airlines, naturally, are opposed. As is the rest of the world, with major countries such as China, the U.S., Russia, and many more signalling opposition.
Up until now, the E.U. spoke as a unified force, stating confidently that they will not back down. In response, China raised the stakes by cancelling orders for aviation equipment which are worth billions of dollars. Numerous other countries are still in the process of planning a response. It seems now that not all of the E.U. agrees with their official stance, which will likely strenghten the resolve of the opposition groups. If the E.U. stays course, expect more punitive retaliatory measures.