LONDON, March 1 (Reuters) - Britain has started allocating free European Union carbon permits to airlines taking part in the bloc's emissions trading scheme, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said on Thursday.
The airlines were given the EU aviation allowances (EUAAs), because they have completed the required steps to open registry accounts, DECC said in a statement.
"The UK will continue to issue allowances to those aircraft operators that open their registry accounts," it said.
A DECC spokeswoman was not immediately available to say how many permits have been handed out so far.
British Airways, part of the IAG group, is set to receive around 18 percent of the UK's total allocation of nearly 57 million EUAAs to airlines this year, DECC said last October.
EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic are expected to each be allocated more than 3 million EUAAs this year.
The EU emissions trading scheme covers around half of the 27-nation bloc's carbon dioxide emissions by including around 12,000 power and industrial plants. Airlines joined the scheme this year.
All airlines using EU airports this year will receive around 183 million EUAAs for free, or 85 percent of the sector's emissions cap in 2012. The rest, or 15 percent, will be sold via auctions.
DECC has said it will auction 7 million EUAAs each year. (Reporting by Jeff Coelho; editing by James Jukwey)