EU drops plan to extend CO2 rules to international flights

The European Parliament voted by 458 votes to 120 to back a proposal which would limit the current regulation to domestic flights until at least 2016.

The vote marks the end of three years of wrangling, during which China and the United States had threatened retaliation if the EU forged ahead with plans to regulate flights originating in their countries.

The European Commission had proposed extending the regulation to also cover the portion of international flights over EU territory, insisting Europe was within its rights to regulate within its own airspace. But EU member states came out against the plan, fearing it could spark a trade war with major trading partners.

Some lawmakers criticized the move, which will reduce by around three-quarters the amount of aviation emissions regulated via the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), and accused the EU of caving under international pressure.

“It is reckless to dismantle this effective climate policy instrument in exchange for a vague promise on a global scheme in the distant future without guarantees of environmental integrity or ambition,” green party MEP Satu Hassi said in a statement.

So, Thursday’s vote outcome means operators of EU flights will still have to pay but delays a deadline to cover 2013 emissions by one year to April 2015.

Low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet , which fly almost exclusively within Europe, argue that the measure puts them at a competitive disadvantage versus rivals with more long-distance flights such as Lufthansa and Alitalia.