May 13 (Reuters) - The European Union signed in April a temporary freeze of its requirement all aircraft pay for carbon emissions through the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) if they use EU airports.
The executive European Commission had proposed the suspension in November last year, but insisted the law be re-imposed automatically unless the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) deliver an alternative global plan for airline emissions.
So far progress at the ICAO on finding any other approach has been slow. Its deadline for a decision is the general assembly of the Montreal-based body in September and October.
The EU ETS makes air operators responsible for emissions on all flights both arriving into, and departing from, Europe.
Even though the requirement is suspended for intercontinental flights, it still applies for internal EU flights.
Airlines are required to measure and collate data on fuel burn per flight and present this in an annual report that must be verified.
Experts say a market-based scheme is the most effective way to curb carbon emissions.
But non-EU nations and aviation bosses are mostly calling for softer measures, such as greener fuel and emissions offsets.
The European Commission says the ICAO should agree on a future market-based measure and outline a way to get there.
It has found support from Australia, but is very isolated and the United States is ambivalent, officials say.
The U.S. criticism of the EU ETS argues that a regional approach was inappropriate and that solutions should be agreed at U.N. level.
President Barack Obama signed the EU Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act, to counter the EU law, in late 2012. It included a clause asking that U.S. officials use their authority to conduct international negotiations to pursue “a worldwide approach to address aircraft emissions”.
A document submitted by the U.S. State Department showed the United States backed an airspace approach that would leave half of emissions unaccounted for. (Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Louise Heavens)