SA WOULD not be dictated to by countries that have "already developed over many, many, many years", Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said yesterday as the country joined growing international opposition to European Union (EU) plans to compel airlines to join its carbon-trading system.

In a week in which the International Air Transport Association (IATA) accused the EU of instigating a trade war with other countries - including the US, China and India - EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard gave carriers until today to submit carbon emission data or face enforcement action. China has instructed its carriers to boycott the EU scheme, and threatened to impound EU aircraft.

"I have to say to the EU that SA sees (the emissions trading scheme) as a challenge, and we will be responding accordingly, " said Ms Molewa at the launch of the Department of Public Enterprises' Climate Change Policy Framework for State-Owned Companies in Centurion.

SAA, which initially wanted to boycott the EU's Emissions Trading System, announced last month it would raise its fuel surcharge on flights to and from Europe by ?1-?2 per passenger on flights booked from the first day of this month in order to comply with the scheme.

The EU's emissions system is a cornerstone of the EU's policy to combat climate change and its key tool for reducing industrial greenhouse gas emissions costeffectively, according to the EU website. The system sets a limit on the total amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted, and companies receive "emission allowances" which they can sell to or buy from one another.

Also speaking at the Centurion event, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said SAA operated internationally and was thus subject to the "unilaterally imposed" EU scheme. However, it had pledged to ensure biofuels made up half of its fuel supply by 2020 to meet the EU's demands.

South African Forestry Company, a state-owned enterprise, was investigating how to support this goal and was expected to release an initial strategy this year. The Department of Energy is to publish final regulations on what will become mandatory blending of traditional fuels with biofuels by the end of the month.

SA pledged to the United Nations in 2009 that it would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 34%, from a "business as usual" trajectory, between then and 2020, and by 42% by 2025. The pledge is conditional on the country receiving aid from developed nations.

The overall aim of the Climate Change Policy Framework for State Owned Companies was to make a fair contribution to the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations, and to effectively manage "unavoidable" climate change effects through "interventions that build and sustain SA's social, economic and environmental response capacity", Mr Gigaba said.

The EU said it was prepared to withdraw the plan if other countries come up with a suitable global alternative. Most countries are looking to the International Civil Aviation Organisation for this.

IATA aviation environment director Paul Steele said that the issue was one of sovereignty, not money.

blaines@bdfm.co.za