|BRUSSELS - European Union environment ministers gave their backing on Friday to a new proposal to include airlines in the EU emissions trading scheme.|
But the EU states asked the European Commission to study the impact of such a move on the price of allowances already traded in the system, the price of electricity, and the competitive market between airlines and other modes of transport.
The European Commission tabled a recommendation in September that all carriers taking off from an EU airport, regardless of nationality, should be included in the scheme in an effort to curb increasing emissions of gases that cause global warming.
The ministers supported including non-EU carriers in the scheme, drawing opposition from the United States and international airlines, and asked the Commission for draft legislation with impact studies by the end of 2006.
"The aviation sector must take its share of responsibility for tackling the problem of climate change," British Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said in a statement, welcoming the environment ministers' support.
"We believe the best way to do this is through an emissions trading scheme." Britain currently holds the EU presidency.
The EU scheme - launched in January as the centrepiece of the bloc's efforts to comply with the Kyoto Protocol - puts a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that big polluters like power plants and oil refineries can emit.
Companies buy more rights to pollute if they overshoot their target or sell them if they come in below the cap.
The member states called for aviation emissions other than C02 to be addressed as well.
"The objective should be to provide a workable mode for aviation within emissions trading in Europe that can be extended or replicated worldwide," the ministers said in a statement of conclusions from their meeting.
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters the ministers' support was a good signal for ongoing international climate change talks in Montreal.
The Commission's proposal on aviation, once it is formalised next year, must still go through the EU legislative process.
Officials have said aviation would not enter the scheme until 2008 at the earliest. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has indicated it would be possible to enter the scheme before 2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol ends.
Gabriel said he hoped it would start as soon as possible.
Story by Jeff Mason
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE