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Deal on Aviation Emissions Within Reach in 2013, EU Says

A global deal to curb greenhouse gases from airlines is within reach as soon as next year after the United Nations’ aviation body accelerated talks on tackling emissions by the industry, the European Union said.

The EU “truly welcomes” the progress at last week’s meeting of the council of the UN International Civil Aviation Organization, which established a high-level group on market-based mechanisms and plans to decide how to tackle emissions next year, according to Isaac Valero-Ladron, climate spokesman for the European Commission, the bloc’s regulatory arm.

“An ICAO deal is possible in 2013,” Valero-Ladron said by phone today. “In the framework of a global deal we will consider changes to the emissions trading system.”

The 27-nation EU, which is seeking to lead the global fight against climate change, included foreign airlines in its emissions-trading market this year after international organizations failed to enact pollution curbs. Under the EU law, the commission should consider whether changes to the emissions program are necessary in the light of a global deal.

The progress at the ICAO meeting on Friday could allow the EU to propose modifications to the bloc’s legislation on emissions trading for airlines as soon as this week, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

“The commission can’t confirm this information,” Valero-Ladron said.

The expansion of the EU emissions trading system, or the ETS, to flights to and from European airports triggered opposition from countries including China, India, Russia and the U.S., which said Europe should let the ICAO decide on greenhouse-gas limits for the industry.

Key Shortcoming

Non-governmental organizations including Transport and Environment said they “cautiously” welcomed the ICAO decision to set a high-level group, which will then make proposals on the framework for market-based mechanisms to be presented to the UN panel’s assembly in September 2013.

“The key shortcoming is that it remains unclear what any such proposal would contain, as there are no binding commitments on substance,” the organizations, which also include the Environmental Defense Fund and Aviation Environment Federation, said in an e-mailed statement.

Under the EU ETS, airlines must surrender beginning in 2013 allowances equal to their emissions in the prior year. The airlines were given free allowances for about 85 percent of the industry cap and will have to buy the remaining 15 percent at auctions. They can also trade between each other.

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