WASHINGTON - Concessions made by the United Nations' aviation body to wrap up two weeks of tense negotiations could make achieving the goal of a market- based measure to cap carbon emissions from airlines harder to achieve.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) agreed in Montreal on Friday to design a global scheme to reduce the growth of the sector's greenhouse gas emissions. The scheme will be hashed out in 2016 and is intended to start in 2020.
But existing differences between countries sharpened at the talks over two key concessions: a decision to restrain the ability of the European Union (EU) and other regions to regulate airline emissions until 2020, and the inclusion of controversial language in other UN climate negotiations.
Countries such as China and Saudi Arabia called for ICAO to recognise the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" (CBDR) under the UN's climate change convention.
The language requires richer countries to assume a bigger burden in efforts to reduce carbon emissions and has been a source of deadlock in negotiations for years.
Connie Hedegaard, the EU commissioner for climate action, and Siim Kallas, transport commissioner, applauded the final deal and said pressure from the EU helped clinch it. But some members of the European Parliament said it may not be strong enough.
The Parliament must now decide whether to delay beyond April 2014 the European Commission's plan to demand carbon permits from all airlines flying into and out of Europe. German Christian Democrat politician Peter Liese, who steered the original law, said the resolution hinders the EU's ability to apply its law to flights travelling over European airspace, which he termed "indispensable".
"The European Parliament will not agree that until 2020 we only cover intra- European flights," he said in a statement. If Parliament and the European Council do not agree on an amendment, the EU will be forced to restart the clock on its law, likely triggering fresh threats of a trade war among countries that oppose the measure.