European Union transport ministers have approved a plan to make airlines part of a carbon trading scheme aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Plane makers such as Boeing are making more efficient aeroplanes
Airlines will either have to reduce the amount of CO2 they produce or buy credits from other industries.
The plan, which is expected to come into effect from 2011, still needs to be approved by the European Parliament.
Airlines claim they are being unfairly targeted and have said that the scheme would cost them billions of euros.
According to the airlines, the carbon-capping plan would cost them about 4 billion euros (£2.7bn; $5.4bn) a year.
At the same time, they argue that they are responsible for less than 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and are working to limit their impact on the environment by using more efficient planes.
However, the EU has committed itself to cutting its overall carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2020, and ministers said that the promise would impact a wide range of businesses.
"Every mode of transport, including the air mode, has to make its contribution to tackling climate change," said Wolfgang Tiefensee, Germany's transport minister.
Analysts said that the ministers had decided to take action because the airline industry was growing quickly, driven along by the expansion of low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet.
The plan would also affect larger carriers such as Deutsche Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France-KLM.
Mr Tiefensee said that the ministers were expecting a "heated debate" over their plans, not only from the airlines but also from other nations.
The US has already warned that the scheme could be in breach of international aviation rules if it tried to include non-EU airlines.