* EU Parliament agrees to scale back plans to regulate
international flight emissions
* States feared expansion would anger China, U.S
* EU to revisit plans if no global deal ready in 2016
(Adds details of legal threat by airlines, reaction)
By Ben Garside and Susanna Twidale
LONDON, April 3 The European Parliament on
Thursday voted to exempt international flights from paying for
their carbon emissions following intense pressure from national
governments not to extend current rules beyond domestic air
On Thursday the European Parliament voted by 458 votes to
120 to back a proposal which would limit the current regulation
to domestic flights until at least 2016, a spokesman for the
Parliament said in a statement.
The vote marks the end of three years of wrangling, during
which China and the United States had threatened retaliation if
the EU forged ahead with plans to regulate flights originating
in their countries in a bid to curb the aviation sector's rising
output of heat-trapping gases blamed for climate change.
The European Commission had proposed extending the
regulation to also cover the portion of international flights
over EU territory, insisting Europe was within its rights to
regulate within its own airspace.
But EU member states came out against the plan, fearing it
could spark a trade war with major trading partners and hamper
progress toward a globally-agreed deal to curb fast-rising
"We invite the European Commission to rethink the usefulness
of unilateral strategy that hits Europe without environmental
gain," said centre-right MEP Eija-Riitta Korhola on Twitter.
Other lawmakers criticised the move, which will reduce by
around three-quarters the amount of aviation emissions regulated
via the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), and accused the EU of
caving under international pressure.
"It is reckless to dismantle this effective climate policy
instrument in exchange for a vague promise on a global scheme in
the distant future without guarantees of environmental integrity
or ambition," green party MEP Satu Hassi said in a statement.
Aviation accounts for around 5 percent of man-made emissions
blamed for causing climate change.
In 2012 the European Union started charging all airlines for
emissions for the full duration of their flights into and out of
the bloc via its ETS but confined application to domestic EU
flights, initially for one year, to give the United Nations time
to craft a global alternative.
Last September, nearly 190 nations at U.N. aviation body
ICAO agreed to design a worldwide scheme to limit aviation
emissions by 2016 to take effect in 2020, but rejected letting
Europe apply its own plans in the meantime.
Peter Liese, the MEP who steered the legislation through the
Parliament, said the assembly had won important concessions
including a requirement for the Commission to immediately come
up with a new proposal following the ICAO meeting in 2016, four
years earlier than member states had wanted.
"If no meaningful progress is made in ICAO in 2016, the
pressure on decision-makers to stand by their promise to revert
back to a full aviation ETS will be overwhelming," said Bill
Hemmings, an environmental campaigner for Brussels-based NGO
Transport and Environment.
Thursday's vote outcome means operators of EU flights will
still have to pay but delays a deadline to cover 2013 emissions
by one year to April 2015.
Low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet
, which fly almost exclusively within Europe, argue that
the measure puts them at a competitive disadvantage versus
rivals with more long-distance flights such as Lufthansa
The European Low Fares Airline Association (ELFAA) said
unless the EU reverses its decision it "will have no option but
to reactivate its currently stayed legal challenge against such
(Editing by Jason Neely and Keiron Henderson)