BRUSSELS/MONTREAL (Alliance News) - The European Union beseeched the international community on Tuesday to hash out a deal on curbing airline emissions by 2016, setting the scene for challenging negotiations at a triennial United Nations aviation meeting.
The EU is threatening to reinstate a contentious carbon tax on airlines if there is no satisfactory outcome at the 10-day assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which was getting underway Tuesday in the Canadian city of Montreal.
"We cannot accept an ICAO resolution that would postpone action to 2020," warned EU lawmaker Matthias Groote, who chairs the European Parliament's environment committee and joined colleagues in sending a letter to the ICAO's president ahead of the Montreal talks.
"For aviation to keep growing, it must be seen as a responsible global citizen," EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas was set to add at the ICAO meeting's opening session, according to an advance copy of his speech. "It is a unique opportunity and a pivotal moment to forge a meaningful global solution."
Airline emissions have been on the rise as air travel has become cheaper. The EU decided to unilaterally force airlines landing and taking off from its airports to pay for the right to pollute from 2012, after 15 years of lobbying failed to produce a global approach.
But the carbon tax was ferociously opposed by countries such as the United States, China, Russia and India - spurring worries that a trade war may develop in the skies.
In April, the EU decided to partially suspend its scheme, agreeing to "stop the clock" for international flights until the ICAO assembly. The tax is set to come back into effect next year unless the EU's governments and parliament agree to extend the suspension.
"Europe believes firmly that at this ICAO assembly we should decide to develop, by 2016, a global market-based measure for international aviation that can start in 2020," Kallas said.
"A resolution that does not recognize that states are acting before 2020 would be a step back ... and is not a solution," the EU parliamentarians added in their letter. "Climate change is one of the most important threats for the whole world."
They warned against watering down the global measure, pointing to a US proposal for a threshold that the parliamentarians say would exempt "most countries, including industrialized ones."
As a sweetener, the EU could agree to soften its controversial tax, leaving airlines liable only for carbon dioxide emissions generated over the bloc's territory rather than for the entire flight, sources in Brussels have said.
The compromise has been received positively by the US and Russia, while China and India were against it, according to people close to the negotiations.
The ICAO, a UN agency, has been in existence since 1944. It currently has 191 member countries.