The German government supported EU plans to introduce binding climate protection guidelines for airlines and said it would address the issue after taking over the EU presidency next year.
Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said in a newspaper interview Tuesday that Berlin's aim was to secure fundamental agreement on the issue among EU member states during Germany's six-month EU presidency, which starts in January.
"We want to make progress on the EU Commission's plans to extend emissions trading to air traffic," Tiefensee told the business daily Handelsblatt.
On Dec. 20, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas is scheduled to present draft guidelines that include airlines in the emissions trading system, which currently applies to power generators and energy-intensive industries.
EU airline emissions plans
According to the report in Handesblatt, Dimas will propose that by 2011 all airlines produce a so-called CO2 certificate, for flights within Europe as well as for intercontinental flights that take off or land in the EU.
The proposal does, however, make an exception for military flights and planes with fewer than 20 seats or 20 tons start-weight.
Each airline would be provided with a certain number of emissions rights and would be forced to buy in additional certificates from companies that undershoot their pollution targets if they exceed their emissions allowance.
The current system of emissions trading in the EU only sets industrial caps and is mainly concerned with large CO2 emissions, as well as power plants and oil refineries.
Airlines involved are skeptical of the approach and said the trading program could lead to increases in ticket fares. Prices for long-haul flight could increase by about nine euros ($12), according to EU Commission estimates.
While not rejecting the emissions trading plan outright, officials from Lufthansa said investments in more modern aircraft would be more beneficial to the environment.
Flights not part of Kyoto
International air traffic is not currently part of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, though Tiefensee said an international solution that treated airlines equally needed to be found.
"Competition difficulties cannot be allowed to occur because some nations do not take part in the emissions trading," Tiefensee told the Handelsblatt, adding that finding a compromise should be possible. "In principle there is no disagreement in Europe that air traffic has to be included in emissions trading."
In the initial allocation of emission rights, the EU said it wants to base credits on an airline's average CO2 output from 2004 to 2006.
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