Airlines back global emissions scheme

Four of the world's top airlines have backed a global scheme to curb carbon emissions and want the proposal to be included in a broader UN pact to fight climate change.

It is the first time airline firms have banded together to make recommendations to UN climate change officials on how to tackle the sector's carbon emissions.

Air France/KLM, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic, airport operator BAA and international NGO The Climate Group have proposed a deal that covers all carbon pollution from the international aviation sector.

This would ensure equal treatment for airlines and open the way to global emissions trading within the sector and possibly with other industries and countries.

"There are some airlines that still think "we're only 2 per cent of global emissions therefore let us get on with our job in peace", said Mark Kenber, policy director of The Climate Group, which advises businesses and governments on how to cut carbon pollution.

"That in Europe, not least as a PR pitch, doesn't work anymore," he told the Reuters news agency. "If airlines don't propose something credible environmentally but also that works well for them economically, then they will get saddled with some other option."

The proposal was presented to climate change negotiators in Bonn, Germany, where representatives from 175 nations are meeting to work on a broader climate pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Conservation groups such as WWF say aviation has not been doing enough to tackle the sector's growing share of greenhouse gas pollution and must pay for its emissions like many other industries.

Many airlines say only a global approach is fair and criticise the European Union's decision to include aviation in the bloc's emissions trading scheme from 2012.

Kenber says the Aviation Global Deal Group is hoping other major carriers will join and were talking to several other airlines in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and the United States.

The proposal recommends that nations agree to a global cap on aviation emissions and that any scheme agreed must be integrated within a post-Kyoto climate pact set to take effect from 2013. Individual carriers would surrender allowances in proportion to the carbon content of their annual fuel purchases. A UN body should administer the system, including the auction of permits.

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