By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers on Tuesday backed a Commission plan to suspend for a year a law that would make all airlines using EU airports pay for their carbon emissions, and urged U.S. President Barack Obama to accelerate a global deal.
International fury at the EU law led Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard last year to propose a temporary exemption for intercontinental flights.
The European Parliament's Environment Committee on Tuesday voted in favor of her proposal, dubbed "Stop the Clock". The move needs the endorsement of a full parliamentary session in April, but has so much support that it is unlikely to be overturned.
The committee strengthened the wording to underline the fact that the suspension could be prolonged beyond a year only if "clear and sufficient" progress were made at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the U.N. body seeking an alternative plan to curbing airline emissions.
"There's no excuse any more. Nobody can say now that the EU is obstructing any agreement," said German Christian Democrat Peter Liese.
"I appeal especially to U.S. President Obama, who has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize among other things for his commitment to tackle climate change, and to Secretary of State (John) Kerry," he added. "They could lose all the credibility if they continue opposing a solution in this important area."
Obama's appointment of Kerry, a long-time champion of action on climate change, raised EU hopes that the United States would step up its environmental ambitions.
So far, campaign groups say Washington's position paper ahead of the next ICAO-sponsored talks in March shows it is proposing a measure that would cover only a small part of airline emissions.
The International Air Transport Association said the EU law had been an obstacle to a global deal.
"With that roadblock removed, we are well positioned for a breakthrough on market-based measures," said Tony Tyler, IATA's director general. Continued...