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United Nations aviation body reaches compromise deal to curb airline emissions

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has reached a deal on curbing carbon dioxide emissions by airlines. But the agreement is not likely to completely satisfy the European Union.

The ICAO on Friday voted to accept a highly anticipated deal to curb airline emissions that is to take effect in 2020.

At the conclusion of the organization's plenary meeting in Montreal, Canada, ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin congratulated the delegates on adopting the resolution, describing it as a major step forward for civil aviation.

"The devil may still be in the details, but today at least the devil has taken a vacation," Benjamin said.

The deal calls for the ICAO's nearly 200 member nations to agree by 2016 on an international system to reduce airline emissions, which are seen as a factor in climate change. The system would go into force in 2020, forcing airlines to account for their CO2 emissions, thus serving to encourage them to reduce the amount produced.

Possible EU problems

The agreement represents only a partial victory for the European Union, which had urged a carbon levy on flights within three years similar to its own recent scheme.

The 28-nation bloc last year imposed a carbon tax to make airlines using its airports pay for part of their emissions. The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) for flights from and to the EU was, however, suspended last year in the face of a storm of criticism, with several nations rejecting the scheme.

Under the deal reached on Friday, countries would have to reject all regional schemes by 2016, thus possibly forcing the EU to abandon its ETS before the international set-up is implemented.

EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the EU would have to look at "how to proceed up to 2020 with our EU emissions-trading system," but welcomed Friday's result.

"The EU's hard work is paying off," she said.

"With this deal on the table, ICAO agrees for the first time to a global way to address aviation emissions."

Others were less enthusiastic about Friday's deal.

"We should not dismantle effective climate policy instruments in exchange for a vague promise on a global scheme in the distant future without guarantees of environmental integrity or ambition, " Green EU parliamentarian Satu Hassi said.

She said the EU should "stand firm and stick by its original plans on aviation emissions."

tj/lw (AFP, dpa)