EU politicians are divided about airline emissions

Some EU politicians are thinking of voting against a deal to exempt long-haul flights from paying for carbon emissions until the end of 2016. They want the European Union not to bow to international pressure.

The European Parliament’s 71-member Environment Committee will vote on March 19 on a deal brokered by EU diplomats earlier in March to extend a so-called “stop the clock” measure, through which only internal EU flights are charged for under its Emissions Trading System (ETS).

Failure to get final agreement on the compromise before the end of April would be likely to reignite tensions with Europe’s major trading partners, such as China and the United States, and risk a trade war. But for environmentalists, it would be a triumph, because it would mean that an existing law that requires all aviation, included international flights, to pay for emissions would automatically apply.

So, there is a division among politicians. The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest grouping in the parliament, is broadly in favour of the extension, but liberal ALDE member Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy said by phone he was encouraging his members to vote against the deal. Groote said there was still opposition to the deal among some members of his Socialist Party, while the Greens, the European Parliament’s fourth-biggest group, have already said they would oppose the proposal.

The European Union in 2012 started charging all airlines that use EU airports for all of their emissions. But after fierce opposition from China and the United States, it suspended the law to give the U.N.’s global aviation body, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), more time to craft a global measure to regulate airlines’ rising output of heat-trapping gases.

Last October, the roughly 190 nations at ICAO agreed to design a global scheme by 2016, which would not take effect until 2020, and rejected letting Europe apply its own plan to foreign carriers in the meantime.



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