EU lawmakers back rules to share out emissions cuts, hike airlines' CO2 costs

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Steam rises from the cooling towers of the coal power plant of RWE, one of Europe's biggest electricity and gas companies in Niederaussem, Germany, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo/File Photo

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  • EU lawmaker committee votes on climate laws
  • Backs tougher rules on national emissions goals
  • Supports faster end to free CO2 permits for airlines

BRUSSELS, May 17 (Reuters) - Lawmakers in the European Parliament's environment committee voted on a raft of climate change policies on Tuesday, including tougher rules to ensure each country cuts greenhouse gas emissions.

The EU is overhauling its climate policies as it seeks to cut net emissions 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels, with a dozen laws to do this now passing through its lawmaking process.

In a vote on proposals to upgrade the national targets Brussels sets countries to cut emissions in sectors like transport and buildings, the lawmakers backed measures to avoid countries dodging emissions cuts and relying on others to pick up the slack.

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"With higher targets for all states there will be no more free riding," said Jessica Polfjärd, lead EU lawmaker on the proposal.

Countries that overachieve on their targets can "sell" part of their extra CO2 cuts - equivalent to 5% of their annual emissions limit - to another country each year until 2030, the lawmakers said. The European Commission, which drafts EU laws, had suggested allowing 10% from 2026-30.

To push all countries to reduce emissions, the committee also scrapped a plan to allocate more spare CO2 cuts from overachieving states to countries that miss their targets.

Each country's target is based largely on its GDP, meaning richer states face tougher goals than poorer ones. The lawmakers did not change the proposed shareout between countries, but tweaked the baseline for calculating emissions limits to reduce them faster. read more

The lawmakers also voted for a faster end to the free permits airlines receive under the EU carbon market - a move that would hike pollution costs for flights within Europe.

Airlines should lose half of their free permits in 2024 and all of them in 2026, lawmakers said, although airlines that use sustainable fuels would receive free permits to help cover their high cost compared with conventional fossil fuels. The Commission had proposed a 25% cut in free permits in 2024 and a 2027 phaseout.

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Reporting by Kate Abnett, editing by Ed Osmond

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