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Aircraft emissions on Montreal agenda

A 10-day aviation conference opens in Montreal Tuesday overshadowed by a lingering European Union threat to reinstate a contentious carbon tax on airlines that drew objections from China, India and the US.

Delegates of the United Nations' civil aviation body converged on Montreal on Tuesday for a triennial conference, facing a row over how to tackle carbon dioxide emissions from airliners partly blamed for climate change.

Outrage from the aviation sectors in the US, China, Russia and India prompted the EU in April to partially suspend its EU-wide pollution tax on airlines that it had introduced in 2012.

The EU said it would give the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) more time to devise a global approach and proposed as a compromise that intercontinental airliners only pay the tax for the time spent in European Union airspace.

Some European governments broke ranks at the time after China suspended orders for up to 45 Airbus jets.

EU wants global deal

Last week, EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said "it's time" that nations which opposed the EU's unilateral move instead reached a global deal in order to "show they mean it."

In July, the US airline lobby group Airlines for America said there was "very strong momentum" to begin a global plan under which airlines would buy carbon credits for their aircraft emissions by 2016. Other sources quoted by the German dpa news agency late last week said a global agreement could apply from 2020.

A European Parliament member, Peter Liese, who led a EU delegation to Washington in July warned at the time: "Unless we have progress in the next six to seven weeks, we will run into a big problem."

"We made very clear that what is on the table now is not enough," Liese said, adding that the US and EU might have to consider a bilateral deal if the ICAO failed to agree globally.

Three percent

The EU estimates that aircraft account for 3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the 28-nation bloc due to cheaper and more frequent air travel.

The ICAO, a UN agency, currently has 191 member nations.

ipj/msh (dpa, Reuters, AFP)