* UN civil aviation body backs effort to block EU plan
* Urges EU not to force non-EU carriers into carbon scheme
* Airlines and airports join warn of losses, trade clash
* EU Commissioner says plenty of room for flexibility
(Adds ICAO confirmation)
By Allison Martell and Barbara Lewis
Nov 2 The United Nations body responsible for
civil aviation weighed in against the European Union's
emissions trading scheme on Wednesday, increasing pressure on
the EU to back down in what threatens to become a serious trade
After months of rhetoric on both sides, the U.N.'s
International Civil Aviation Organization adopted a working
paper from the United States, China and two dozen other nations
urging the EU not to include non-EU carriers in its plan. The
ICAO said the paper had been adopted by "a clear majority,"
although European countries had expressed strong reservations.
Under the EU's proposals to put a price on pollution,
airlines will have to buy permits to help offset greenhouse
emissions from jetliners operating in, to and from Europe.
"It is disappointing that ICAO discussions once again focus
on what States should not do instead of what they should do to
curb growing aviation emissions," Connie Hedegaard, the EU's
top climate action official, said in a statement.
"Unfortunately ICAO has missed again today the opportunity
to tell the world when it will (put forward) a viable global
The aviation industry on Wednesday also called for urgent
action to prevent disruption to trade and tourism as a result
of the plan, which has already sparked tit-for-tat legislation
in the U.S. Congress.
The EU rules are to take effect on Jan. 1, and the airlines
said they could lose 1.2 billion euros ($1.7 billion) in 2012,
or a quarter of this year's profits.
Opposing nations say the plan would infringe a "cardinal
principle of state sovereignty" by basing its charges on the
distance flown by each flight, which means calculations would
include foreign airspace, in violation of a 1944 pact that
gives each country exclusive authority over its skies.
It would also discriminate against nations located furthest
away from Europe.
TICKET PRICES SAFE
With billions riding on new regulations, environmental
measures have increasingly spilled over to trade tensions.
European bioethanol producers targeted U.S. farmers Wednesday
in a dispute that could lead to import tariffs on the green
Under the EU aviation plan, airlines would have to adopt an
emissions trading scheme that has been running since 2005.
Airlines would be allocated tradeable pollution allowances,
with each permit representing a tonne of carbon dioxide. Each
time a flight to, from or within the EU emits that much CO2 an
allowance must be handed back from the same pot or acquired.
Airlines failing to obey face fines of 100 euros per
missing permit, or 10 times their current market value. In
extreme cases they could be banned from the 27-nation bloc.
The 26 objecting nations warned of a "chaotic situation" as
other countries tried to come up with competing schemes.
"The Council's decision today is one more skirmish in the
airlines' continuing battle to evade pollution regulation,"
said Pamela Campos, a lawyer with the Environmental Defense
Fund who attended the ICAO meeting, said in a release.
Tony Tyler, director general of the International Air
Transport Association, which represents 230 airlines, said
earlier that the industry was ready to adopt market-based tools
to control emissions, but urged the EU to act internationally.
He said the carbon plan would hit profits and make it
harder to invest in cleaner aircraft, although competition
would limit the impact on consumers.
The airport industry, which often squabbles with airlines
over landing charges, backed the carriers by calling for urgent
action to avert a trade conflict.
Environmental groups say air travelers have had an easy
ride on pollution and adding aviation to the EU's prime tool
for controlling greenhouse emissions would address this.
"Emissions have doubled in 20 years and a plane ticket is
about the cheapest way a person can heat the planet right now
in terms of CO2 per dollar," said Dudley Curtis of the T&E
environmental lobby group, based in Brussels.
The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives voted last
week to ban U.S. airline compliance with the scheme, raising
the prospect that flights could be disrupted. It remained
unclear if the Democratic-controlled Senate would back the
move, which the EU has criticized as an attack on its laws.
($1 = 0.725 Euros)
(Reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto and Barbara Lewis in
Brussels; Additional reporting by Tim Hepher, Timothy Heritage
and Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck; Editing by Christian Plumb
and Janet Guttsman)