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Originally published June 6, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 6, 2007 at 7:16 PM

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European airlines protest global-warming curbs

European airlines claimed say the European Union' plan for a mandatory greenhouse-gas cap and trading system would cripple the industry...

BRUSSELS, Belgium — European airlines claimed say the European Union' plan for a mandatory greenhouse-gas cap and trading system would cripple the industry with extra costs of $5.4 billion a year. Low-cost airlines such as Ryanair joined major carriers such as British Airways and Lufthansa in saying the plan would diminish mobility, hurt the overall economy and cut off remote areas from tourist traffic, citing a report that the airlines commissioned from global accounting group Ernst & Young and air transport consultants York Aviation.

Aviation contributes only 1.5 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, but this is growing fast as a new wave of low-fare, short-haul airlines — such as Ryanair — boost passenger numbers. Environmentalists claim that aircraft may be more damaging because emissions are released at high altitude.

European airlines said they were committed to a carbon-offset trading system to cut emissions that cause global warming. However, they said they would ask EU lawmakers and governments to consider a higher basic limit for the carbon trading cap, as the current level does not take into account growth in the industry.

The EU's executive body said in December airlines will have to trade pollution allowances in the near future.

Emissions will be capped at the average level from 2004 to 2006.

Airlines can trade carbon permits with other fuel-hungry industries such as power generators and steelmakers, increasing competition for a finite number of permits.

Meanwhile, British Airways, the first carrier to offer carbon offset tickets, plans to improve promotion of an environmental option for passengers. Only about 0.7 percent of the London-based airline's customers buy the offsets, an extra fee intended to compensate for a flight's carbon dioxide emissions, Walsh said today at an International Air Transport Association meeting in Vancouver, B.C.

The money goes to an environmental company that invests in projects to reduce the greenhouse gases blamed for warming earth's atmosphere. Other carriers are following the London- based airline's example amid increased pressure from environmentally minded travelers.

Delta Air Lines Inc. and Air Canada began offering carbon offsets to customers last week, and Continental Airlines Inc. said it will begin selling them later this year.

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