Draft measures to clip airlines' skyrocketing greenhouse gas emissions are creating a rift at the 36th International Civil Aviation Organization talks, which kicked off here Tuesday.

Representatives of 190 nations are meeting in Montreal this week to decide which course to plot to curb CO2 emissions linked to global warming, as the EU readies to take unilateral action to force airlines to pollute less. The ICAO assembly meets every three years to refine, harmonize or set new worldwide air travel regulations.

"The big question dominating this year's conference is airlines' increasing carbon emissions," Denis Chagnon, spokesman for the ICAO, told AFP, noting consensus had already been reached on new airline safety and security measures going into the talks. "But we can't predict or anticipate how negotiations (on emissions) will unfold," he said.

"Usually, I can prepare a media release a few weeks in advance announcing any new guidelines, but not this time."

One hotly-contested scenario would impose mandatory emissions cuts on some airlines, or continue a voluntary approach for all unveiled at the ICAO's last meeting in 2004.

Giovanni Bisignani, director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), representing the airline industry, on Monday challenged ICAO member states to set a target of 120 million tons of carbon emissions annually through "more efficient infrastructure and better operations." He proposed offering airlines tax credits to renew their fleets and research grants to develop greener aircraft and fuel, rather than include airlines in the EU carbon trading market.

"The most pressing economic issue is emissions trading. Europe's intention to include aviation in its emissions trading scheme was a wake-up call for everybody," he told reporters.

"But the environment is a global issue requiring a global approach. "If implemented unilaterally, the result would be legal and diplomatic fights with limited or negative impact on the environment," he added. Canada, the United States, Australia, China, Brazil and India are said to oppose the EU proposal.


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