BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A global deal on emissions curbs by airlines struck late on Friday will allow the European Union to press ahead with plans to charge airlines for emissions permits from 2012, the European Commission said on Saturday.
The EU agreed in 2008 that airlines should be included in its emissions trading scheme (ETS), which forces industry to pay for permits for each tonne of carbon dioxide they emit into the atmosphere.
The ETS is the EU's main tool for combating climate change and it wants to see the system adopted worldwide. Aviation is responsible for some 2 percent of the world's carbon emissions.
Some U.S. airlines had challenged the EU's right to include their flights into and out of Europe within the ETS.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency, adopted a resolution on Friday to reduce aviation emissions with a "roadmap" up to 2050 for the 190 member states.
The aviation sector would seek to become 2 percent more fuel-efficient every year and to cap emissions from 2020.
European Commissioners for Transport Siim Kallas and for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said in a statement they welcomed the breakthrough after almost a decade of deadlock with a deal to cover over 90 percent of worldwide air traffic.
"Crucially, ICAO has refrained from language which would make the application of the EU's ETS to their airlines dependent on the mutual agreement of other states," the Commission said, adding this had led to stalemate at the last ICAO assembly in 2007.
"This time, the EU agreed to engage constructively in dialogue with third countries during the implementation of its ETS, notably regarding how to deal with emissions from incoming flights from third countries," she continued.
Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Pete Harrison; Editing by Janet Lawrence