[BRUSSELS] The boss of International Airlines Group on Wednesday said the industry would prefer a global emissions trading scheme to tackle aviation pollution, although other "interesting" options were also under consideration.
Emissions from European flights are already covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), but an EU law, meant to take effect from 2012, that extended the arrangement to intercontinental aviation emissions caused outcry.
That forced the EU to retreat and UN body the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) took on the task of coming up with a global alternative. Its deadline is a meeting planned for late 2016.
"The industry has a clear preference for a global emissions trading scheme, but I think some of the suggestions that are being introduced are interesting and should be examined," Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways and Iberia's parent IAG, told a press conference.
"We've moved on significantly from where we were a couple of years ago when there were separate states and they would not participate and we've also moved on from where people felt ICAO would be unable to reach an agreement."
He said the industry was not divided on the issue, but that governments were.
In 2012, nations such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia accused the European Union of infringing national sovereignty and threatened a trade war.
Planemakers such as Airbus also put pressure on the European Union, saying multibillion-dollar orders for aircraft were at risk.
A joint pledge between China and the European Union, expected to be signed off later this month in Brussels, calls for "a timely agreement in ICAO on a global market-based measure in 2016".
But environmental campaigners are concerned about how"market-based" will be defined and that the result will be less effective than including aviation in the EU ETS, a cap and trade system that limits the level of pollution allowed and forces emitters to buy permits to cover emissions up to that level.
Allowance prices are weak on the ETS at around 7.50 euros per tonne, but are expected to strengthen as a series of reforms are enacted.
Any deal allowing airlines to use international carbon offsets could mean they avoid having to cut pollution as the carbon reductions would be achieved elsewhere, campaigners say.