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EU Suspends Aviation Emissions Rules

The European Commission has suspended its carbon emissions laws on flights taking off or landing from EU member states.

The move follows a decision by the International Civil Aviation Organization last week to consider a global market-based mechanism — such as carbon trading — to encourage airlines to cut their emissions.

Although the ICAO has not yet decided to implement such a system, EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard called the the ICAO’s movement toward a worldwide market-based mechanism “very good news,” and “progress” toward an international regulation on aviation emissions.

She said the European Union will “stop the clock” for a year on aviation’s inclusion within the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme until after the ICAO General Assembly next fall. The EU regulations required airlines to limit carbon emissions or buy permits to make up the shortfall, and applied to all flights within, to and from the EU.

The Commission has also suspended aviation’s carbon monitoring and reporting obligations until 2013, when the Assembly meets.

However, Hedegaard warned that if the ICAO Assembly does not move forward with emissions regulations, then the EU carbon penalties on flights will resume in 2013.

Following the EU Commission’s announcement, WWF-UK called on ICAO members to demonstrate a commitment to reducing GHG emissions from airplanes. Jason Anderson, head of European climate and energy policy in WWF’s European policy office, said it’s now up to other countries – specifically the US – to “show leadership and push for a global agreement on the issue.”

The US airline industry group A4A has said it will lobby President Obama immediately after he retakes the oath of office over the inclusion of all airlines in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme. Both houses of the US Congress have passed blocking legislation, yet to be signed by the US president, to counter the EU law.

Last year, 26 ICAO member countries including the US and China lodged a formal complaint through the organization urging Brussels not to require compliance from non-EU carriers. The airline industry said the rules could cost it €1.2 billion in 2012, an amount equal to a quarter of 2011’s profits.

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