BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - Airlines that fly within the EU will have to trade carbon emissions beginning in 2011, the European Commission said Wednesday, which could see travelers pay more for popular short-break trips.
Expanded rules covering all airlines that fly into the EU will take effect the next year, a move that would hit U.S. airlines on their lucrative trans-Atlantic routes.
Airlines are generally in favor of the plan, since EU officials had warned them that refusing to back an emissions trading program would result in an aviation tax.
But the Commission urged the airline industry to cut down on releasing the greenhouse gas that causes climate change.
''EU emissions from international air transport are increasing faster than from any other sector,'' it said. ''This growth threatens to undermine the EU's progress in cutting overall greenhouse gas emissions.''
The plan could add between $2.40 to $11.80 to a typical return flight within Europe with higher price hikes for long-haul trips. The Commission claimed these would be ''significantly lower'' than recent oil price increases passed on to air travelers.
Bowing to pressure from trade partners, the EU's executive arm will give all flights to and from EU airports another year to join the program.
All airlines - based in the EU or elsewhere - will have to trade emissions beginning in 2012 for all flights to and from European airports, it said.
The plan is compatible with international rules, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said, adding that he did not believe U.S. airlines would win a challenge to it. He called on them to play their part in the fight against climate change.
It's a global problem,'' Dimas told reporters. ''It needs a global solution.''
The emissions trading program gives airlines a financial incentive to reduce emissions because they can sell allowances that they don't use. But if they fail to turn over to low-carbon technology or simply increase their flights, they will be punished by being forced to buy additional allowances to release more carbon dioxide.
The EU said aircraft emissions currently make up 3 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions - higher than any other industry - but are increasing fast as cheap flights multiply and would likely double by 2020.
''Without action, the growth in emissions from flights from EU airports will by 2012 cancel out more than a quarter of the 8 percent emission reduction the EU must achieve to reach its Kyoto Protocol target,'' it said.
Someone flying from London to New York and back generates about the same level of emissions as the average person in the EU does by heating their home for a year, the Commission said.
Emissions will be capped at the average from 2004 to 2006, it said. Some allowances will be auctioned by national governments but most will be given away.
Scandinavian airline operator SAS AB said carbon trading was the best option because it did not punish economic growth. But it said it would have preferred to start with a global plan ''in environmental terms and from a competitive perspective.''
The Association of European Airlines, which represents Air France SA and British Airways, backed emissions trading but warned that a poorly designed program could strip airlines of the funds they need to introduce cleaner technology. The International Air Transport Association also gave it a ''cautious welcome.''