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LONDON (Reuters) - A European Union proposal to impose a levy on ships over their greenhouse gas emissions risks undermining the sector's global efforts to tackle the issue, the UN shipping agency's chief said on Monday.
EU lawmakers voted in December in favor of including shipping in draft reforms of the bloc's carbon emissions trading system (ETS), which could see the establishment of a fund to compensate for the industry's carbon footprint.
The shipping industry, which accounts for around 90 percent of goods transported globally, has rejected unilateral moves by the EU, arguing it would distort world trade and instead wants the issue handled via UN agency, the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
In a letter addressed to EU officials on Monday, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said inclusion of emissions from ships in an ETS by the bloc "significantly risks undermining efforts on a global level".
"I am concerned that a final decision to extend the EU ETS to shipping emissions would not only be premature but would seriously impact on the work of IMO to address GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions from international shipping," Lim wrote.
"Such political cooperation is important to ensure that all countries act together."
The proposals will go to a plenary vote in February and the EU's three law-making bodies - member states, the European Commission and the European Parliament - will start talks this year to thrash out a reform deal.
A spokeswoman for the European Commission said in December that it was closely following the discussions in both the European Parliament and the Council of member governments, but had no specific comment on the inclusion of shipping in the proposals.
Shipping now accounts for around 2.2 percent of world emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and that share is forecast to rise dramatically if nothing is done to slow it.
Last year the IMO laid out a "road map" towards the adoption of final CO2 reduction commitments in 2023.
Reporting by Jonathan Saul; Editing by Susan Fenton