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UN Body Approves ‘Historic’ Airline Deal

airplaneThe UN’s aviation body has approved a plan for a market-based program to cut airline industry emissions, in a move Bloomberg described as “unprecedented for a single global industry.”

The market mechanism is supposed to start in 2020, but as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) executive committee agreed Thursday, details won’t be decided until 2016. The mechanism could take the form of taxes, tradable permits or carbon offsets, the BBC reports. The agreement also encourages countries to develop new aircraft technology, adopt carbon standards and use sustainable jet fuel alternatives.

It also appears to include a “complete get-out clause” for developing countries, particularly African nations, the BBC says.

The deal follows over 15 years of talks, debating how to curb emissions from the global aviation sector. And Paul Steele, executive director of industry body Air Transport Action Group, said it was “clearly an historic resolution… We now have agreement on a global scheme and a timeline and the building blocks to deliver it.”

But Bill Hemmings from green group Transport & Environment said the agreement text is “full of holes” and Samantha Smith from WWF said, “2020 is too late.”

The path forward is not completely clear, either. The ICAO voted to keep any nation from imposing its own restrictions on airliner emissions. But the EU may not treat this vote as binding.

The issue took on global urgency after the EU expanded its Emissions Trading Scheme last year to cover all flights landing in or originating from the economic zone. In November 2012, after widespread protest, the bloc enacted a freeze on that expansion. But the freeze will expire next year, unless EU regulators renew it.

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