EU agrees text of "stop the clock" aviation law

Tue Mar 12, 2013 3:14pm EDT

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* Law will reapply if U.N. talks cannot agree a scheme

* Law should enter force by end of April

BRUSSELS, March 12 (Reuters) - The European Union agreed on a legal text to suspend for a year a requirement that all airlines using EU airports should pay for their carbon emissions, EU presidential and parliamentary officials said.

International fury at the EU aviation charge led Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard last year to propose a temporary exemption, dubbed "stop the clock" for intercontinental flights.

The legal text was swiftly agreed on Tuesday in talks between the Commission, the European Parliament and Ireland, which as the holder of rotating EU presidency represents member states.

The new law should enter into force by April 30, which was formerly the deadline for all airlines to submit permits to cover flight emissions.

While internal EU flights are still required to use the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to pay for their emissions, Tuesday's text states the European Union would exempt intercontinental flights.

It says the aim is "to facilitate agreement at the 38th ICAO assembly (in September and October this year) on a realistic timetable for the development of a global market-based measure", one of the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is trying to reach agreement on a global alternative to the EU scheme. So far talks, which continue this month, have been slow.

The European Union in 2008 agreed to include all aviation in the EU ETS because of frustration after years of U.N. talks had failed to find a way to curb airline emissions.

But the law's entry into force last year stirred threats of a trade war and allegations that it breached national sovereignty.

German Christian Democrat politician Peter Liese, who steered the original law through parliament as well as leading current debate on the "stop the clock", said the European Union was still determined to tackle aviation emissions and would deliver on its threat to reinstate the law if the ICAO cannot agree on an alternative.

"In the agreement it is stated that the derogation only applies for emissions from 2012," Liese said. "This means that either ICAO will find a solution or we will continue to cover intercontinental flights in our scheme."

The law must now be endorsed by a full parliamentary session in April, but that is expected to be a formality. A parliamentary committee already backed the measure last month. (Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Jane Baird)

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