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EU lawmakers on Tuesday backed plans to exempt some airline carbon emissions from a controversial tax pending an international accord on an issue which has pitted Europe against the United States and China.
The Environment Committee of the European Parliament voted through a proposal to suspend the EU's CO2 Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) for intercontinental flights, as announced for a year in November by the European Commission.
MEPs stressed that their support was conditional on progress at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to agree worldwide measures to tackle the carbon dioxide emissions many blame for global warming.
"Today's vote is a clear signal that the European Union wants an international solution," said MEP Peter Liese, who oversees the issue in parliament.
EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard suspended the carbon tax plan last year for flights to and from non-European nations after Washington and Beijing led a chorus of opposition.The EU unilaterally introduced the carbon tax scheme on January 1, 2012 but 26 of the ICAO's 36 members opposed the move, saying the levy violated international law.
Under the ETS, airlines operating within the EU have to buy pollution credits to cover some 15 percent of their carbon dioxide missions.
Liese said there was now "no more excuses for third countries not to engage in the issue.
"Third countries have given the impression that it is the European Union that stands in the way but we shall see if they have enough commitment," he added.
The ICAO is due to take up the issue again at its next general assembly in September 2013.
The committee recommendation now goes to a full parliament vote in April.