EU proposes early start to aircraft emissions scheme

The European Parliament has proposed accelerating the inclusion of the aviation industry in the Emissions Trading Scheme, the carbon credit system which is the centrepiece of the bloc's efforts to curb climate change.

Last night, the Parliament's environment committee voted that any airline touching down in the EU from 2011 would have to adhere to pollution targets set out by the scheme – a year earlier than previously suggested.

The MEPs also proposed increasing the amount of carbon permits that airlines must buy from 10 per cent to 25 per cent, a move which drew objections from carriers. "We have a more fundamental problem with the proposed level auctioning at 25 per cent," said a spokesman for easyJet, the budget carrier which flies almost exclusively within Europe. "Auctioning at that level seems an unnecessary hindrance at this point."

It is unclear whether the changes will be ratified in a vote by the full Parliament, which is expected by July. Carbon emissions are an issue that has an industry trying to minimize the financial hit on one side and politicians keen on keeping Europe at the forefront of the battle against climate change on the other. A spokesman for Virgin said it had no objection as long as the plan was a prelude to a global programme. Ministers estimated that it could add an average of about €10 (£8) per flight within the EU and up to four times that for intercontinental trips.

Record oil prices have forced carriers to push up prices, and several airlines have gone bust. Silverjet, the all-business class airline, was locked in eleventh hour talks after it was unable to secure a promised financing package. An announcement from the airline could come today.

The easyJet spokesman said it prefers the ETS to the UK's air passenger duty, under which passengers are charged a flat fee. He added: "We've been very strong supporters of the ETS and feel that it is the right market-based mechanism to balance the social and economic contribution of air travel with its impact on climate change."

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