Sky-High Protectionism?

Extrait de: Sky-High Protectionism?, Jean Pisani-Ferry, Project Syndicate, Mar. 29, 2012

BRUSSELS – A new controversy has emerged between the European Union and several of its main trade partners since the EU decided to include in its CO2 emission-control scheme all flights to and from its territory, including transcontinental flights. Airlines will need to acquire emission permits for their flights’ CO2 emissions.

China and the United States are outraged. Chinese airlines have delayed orders to purchase European aircraft. The CEOs of aircraft manufacturer Airbus and major European airlines have urged European leaders to step in. There is talk of a new trade war.

This is an important quarrel, because it is the first real clash in the debate on climate and trade. Not only are the motivations and arguments new, but suspicions about hidden agendas matter as much as substance.

It may seem strange, but the EU sees itself as a soldier of the common good. Why is a group of countries whose share in worldwide CO2 emissions is only 12% – and set to decline fast – aspiring to global leadership on the issue, despite US inaction and emerging-market countries’ reluctance to commit to binding emission-reduction targets?

In part, the EU’s stance reflects the preferences of European public opinion. In part, it arises from internal politics: to press ahead with its agenda enables the EU to strengthen its hand vis-à-vis the member states. In part, there is the hope that by moving fast, Europe will acquire a comparative advantage in low-carbon technologies.

From a European standpoint, the reaction from trade partners is difficult to accept.

·         After all, the measure is non-discriminatory: all airlines are treated in the same way.

·         In its absence, the choice would have been between putting European airlines at a disadvantage and exempting a sector whose share in the EU’s total CO2 emissions has grown from 1.8% in 1990 to 3.5% in 2007.

·         Anyone who acknowledges that global warming is a real threat must take the EU’s arguments seriously.

The EU’s trade partners make several valid arguments. One is that receipts from the sale of emission permits should not accrue to the EU for flights that take place largely outside of its borders, though this would be a relatively simple matter for negotiators to settle.

Another argument is that the EU scheme will create distortions that favor of incumbents (who will be given permits for free) and non-direct flights (because only the leg to or from the EU will be taxed). This, too, is correct, but the distortion would be eliminated, should partner countries adopt the same scheme.

Finally, opponents of the EU’s scheme contend that developing countries’ contribution to emission reductions should be less significant than that of advanced countries, since they contributed much less to the stock of existing greenhouse gases. But this issue could easily be resolved through negotiations over the allocation of permits. In fact, the EU explicitly supports a global agreement, negotiated in a multilateral framework, as the best solution.

The really important argument against Europe’s decision is the one about hidden agendas.

The EU’s trade partners do not want to give ground, because they suspect that in the coming years, climate change will serve as a pretext for protectionist policies.

Indeed, climate change is in many ways the perfect crutch that opponents of open trade have long sought, and there is a real risk that it will be used in a mischievous way.

So caution is fully justified. But the problems arising from the incoherence of national climate policies are real. They emerge as soon as domestic emissions are taxed in some part of the world (or, equivalently, as soon as quotas are imposed), because domestic producers then claim that they are at a disadvantage in international trade.

Moreover, rejecting Europe’s arguments out of hand, owing to a suspected protectionist agenda, is not without risk. If the controversy comes to be perceived by the European public as a conflict between free trade and the environment, free trade is likely to lose.

Europe’s partners should not assume that trade automatically takes precedence over climate concerns. Instead, they should focus public attention on valid arguments. For example, it is much easier for advanced countries to reduce emissions without any effort, simply by outsourcing the production of emission-intensive goods to emerging and developing countries. In this way, they can meet strict targets without reducing the carbon content of their consumption.

The trade vs. climate debate is fundamental for the global economy. Europe’s air-transport tax provides an opportunity to launch it in a concrete and rational way. It is an opportunity that should not be missed.

Évidemment, quand il y a eu négociation à inclure la Chine dans l’OMC on a tout simplement omis les trois composantes du développement durable, à savoir les composantes sociales, économiques et environnementales…

Jean Pisani-Ferry is Director of Bruegel, the Brussels-based economic-policy think tank, and Professor of Economics at Université Paris-Dauphine. He was an adviser to the European Commission’s Directo.

Extrait de : Les ventes d'Airbus bloquée en Chine : la faute à la taxe carbone européenne, Le | 08.03.2012

En représailles à la taxe carbone européenne, la Chine bloque des achats d'Airbus par les compagnies chinoises, indique Louis Gallois, le patron d'EADS, la maison mère de l'avionneur européen, jeudi 8 mars. "Airbus est frappé par des mesures de représailles. Le gouvernement chinois refuse d'approuver des commandes de long-courriers des compagnies chinoises", a déclaré M. Gallois, demandant à Bruxelles de renoncer à appliquer cette taxe devant l'opposition du reste du monde.


Les ventes de quarante-cinq appareils - dix Superjumbo A380 et trente-cinq long-courriers A330 - sont en jeu, a souligné le patron d'EADS en présentant les résultats 2011 du groupe d'aéronautique et de défense. Six des A330 bloqués devaient être livrés en 2013 et dix-neuf en 2014, a-t-il précisé.

Airbus a annoncé dans la présentation de ses résultats qu'il voudrait porter la cadence de production du biréacteur A330 à onze appareils par mois à partir du deuxième trimestre 2014, mais à condition que la taxe carbone "n'impacte pas les commandes d'avions". 

La législation européenne entrée en vigueur le 1er janvier 2012 oblige les compagnies opérant dans l'Union européenne, quelle que soit leur nationalité, à acheter l'équivalent de 15 % de leurs émissions de CO2, soit 32 millions de tonnes, pour lutter contre le réchauffement climatique. Vingt-six des trente-six membres de l'Organisation de l'aviation civile internationale (OACI), dont la Chine, les Etats-Unis et la Russie contestent la mesure