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EU seeks to resolve new aircraft emissions dispute

Over a year after global regulators approved emissions rules for commercial aircrafts, the European Union is facing an internal dispute over how they should be applied in an issue that could impact Airbus jet models.

The European Parliament and EU member states will gather this week to try to resolve differences over how far European officials should be limited by last year’s agreement at the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The Montreal agreement sets limits on emissions from all new aircraft from 2020 and will be phased in for deliveries of existing models of aircraft from 2023.

However, environmentalists have said it does not go far enough.

The debate is being brought up as lawmakers consider the future of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is responsible for aircraft certification standards for 32 EU and non-EU nations.

Under a proposal by the European Commission to amend the Cologne-based agency, EASA would be allowed to impose CO2 emission standards stricter than those agreed in 2016 at ICAO.

However, EU member states want that option take out so that EASA would only be able to apply the standards agreed at the U.N. aviation agency, and no more.

Under the agreement at ICAO that came after six years of negotiations, some current-generation aircraft like the A380 delivered after 2028 would need an upgrade that could add even more expenses.

However, it remains vague whether it will be produced until then because of slow sales.

Some, like the A330 freighter, would no longer be delivered.

The latest argument looks set to renew friction between environmental campaigners and Airbus, whom they claim is leaning on the Commission to reduce its policy with the support of France, where the plane maker is based.

In the run-up to this week’s meeting, environmental group Transport and Environment (T&E) delivered emails between Airbus and the Commission attained through a freedom of information request, which it said showed Airbus had influenced policy by being permitted to insert comments directly into an EU draft.

The policy put forth by the EU at the ICAO discussions was less stringent than the one eventually adopted with U.S. support.

“Now we know: when it comes to climate Europe lets Airbus write its own rules, rendering them ineffective. It will happen again on Wednesday unless EU countries stand up to Airbus and their shareholder governments (France, Germany and Spain) and enable Europe to decide on its environmental laws,” Andrew Murphy, Aviation Manager at T&E, said

A spokesman for the Commission said it was standard procedure to seek input from Airbus as Europe’s biggest plane manufacturer.

Airbus also denied exerting any pressure on EU decision makers.

“It is completely normal for us to engage in dialogue with the European Commission to relay our opinion on appropriate matters,” a spokeswoman said.

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