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BEIJING, July 6 (Reuters) - Including aviation in Europe's emissions trading scheme (ETS) is key to limiting greenhouse gases and climate change, the European Union said on Wednesday, defending strict plans that have prompted China to cry foul.
The EU's ETS will compel airlines flying to or from Europe to buy permits for 15 percent of the carbon emissions they produce beginning in 2012, adding them to the 11,000 factories and power plants already in the scheme.
China has resisted, and a Tuesday commentary by China's state Xinhua News Agency reflecting the government's stance said the plan was poorly designed, costly and unfair for developing countries.
But an EU statement sought to set the record straight, framing the scheme as a fair and cost-effective way to reach climate-change goals.
"It is an important part of the EU's action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases associated with Europe and to limit climate change to 2 degrees Celsius," said a statement from the EU Delegation in China.
Even with the scheme, aviation emissions in Europe from international flights are projected to be 300-700 percent higher than 2005 levels by 2050, the statement said, adding that the regulations applied to "all airlines regardless of nationality".
It said the economic impact of the trading scheme would be only a small percentage of current fuel costs, which airlines were likely to pass on to consumers, most from the EU heading to other developed countries.
"Flights to and from China would account for less than 3 percent of total aviation emissions covered by the EU system," it said.
The China Air Transport Association has said the scheme would cost Chinese airlines 800 million yuan ($123 million) in the first year and more than triple that by 2020.
At least 16 Chinese airlines have the right to fly to Europe, with 11 operating regular services. Among the most affected will be Air China Ltd , China Southern Airlines Co Ltd and China Eastern Airlines Corp Ltd .
Other international carriers, including U.S. airlines, have been vocal critics of the plan to include aviation in the bloc's $120 billion trading scheme.
Non-EU carriers will have to pay carbon costs based on the entire journey, something that angers Asian airlines in particular because of the long distances to Europe.
"The EU needs to listen to the concerns of the rest of the world and rethink its plan now," Xinhua said yesterday. The EU's statement said the EU was not seeking "double regulation" of emissions.
"In relation to the measures that China is taking on CO2 emissions from aviation, the EU is happy to discuss with the Chinese government about the possibility of excluding all flights to the EU departing from China from the EU system, for all carriers," it said. (Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Chris Lewis)