Arab airlines voiced strong opposition to the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) at their annual general assembly in Abu Dhabi, and industry sources say they expect foreign ministers from the Middle East to address the European Commission (EC) soon to express their concerns at a higher political level.

“Arab airlines want to shoulder their environmental responsibilities, but as part of a global solution,” the Arab Air Carriers Organization’s (AACO) Director General Abdul Wahhab Teffaha told delegates. “Unilateral initiatives ignoring the boundaries of jurisdiction are not succeeding,” he believes. Any global deal would have to be handled by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), he says.

ETS opponents hope that the foreign ministers will be able to increase pressure on the EU to change its plan to extend the ETS to aviation on Jan. 1. One potential outcome is that countries opposing the ETS give a formal mandate to ICAO to negotiate a compromise with the EU on their behalf. Such an approach would make it much more difficult for the EC to push through its initial plans. It could then still opt for an intra-European system that does not touch traffic in and over third countries.

However, there are no clear signs of any movement. The EC is trying instead to engage its opponents in negotiations over equivalent measures that would lead to the exclusion from ETS based on local environmental projects. Following that path “would be a nightmare for the industry,” IATA CEO Tony Tyler said at the AACO meeting, because it would open up the gates for various regional schemes that would be expensive and difficult to handle for international airlines.