International flights in and out of the European Union could be exempted from emission limits for at least another four years to give the United Nations time to implement a global system to curb pollution from planes.
The EU proposed extending the exemption, which was set to end at the start of this year, to avoid a repeat of tensions when it tried to include all flights in 2012.
The International Civil Aviation Organization clinched a deal on a global market-based measure for offsetting airline emissions in October, but it will not be mandatory until 2027, prompting criticism from environmental campaigners. Airlines strongly backed the deal as they want to avoid a patchwork of national and regional schemes.
But it was seen as not being ambitious enough by the European Parliament, which along with member states will have to approve the EU exemption proposal.
This foresees an indefinite extension of the so-called “stop the clock” provision exempting airlines from surrendering carbon allowances for flights into and out of the bloc.
It will be reviewed by the European Commission as details on the implementation of the UN scheme become clear and before it takes effect in 2021.
The fate of the emissions trading system (ETS) covering flights within Europe will also be assessed in the review, EU officials said, adding that all options were on the table, including dismantling it once the global system is in place to avoid double counting for flights within the bloc.
In 2012, the EU ordered carriers to buy credits for foreign flights under the ETS but backtracked when countries said it violated their sovereignty and China threatened to cancel plane orders from Airbus.