Page last updated at 19:45 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 20:45 UK

Airlines plan 'to cut emissions'

Cutting emissions could mean a rise in air fares for travellers

The aviation industry is to pledge to cut carbon dioxide emissions to half the 2005 levels by 2050, the head of BA has told world leaders .

British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh said the industry's proposals are "the best option for the planet".

The move would push air fares up and could prompt a race for green technologies among aircraft makers.

The deal between airlines, airports and aircraft companies will be presented at the UN's climate summit in New York.

Around 100 or so world leaders are attending the conference aimed at building momentum before a meeting in Denmark in December, where it is hoped a new deal on global emissions reduction targets will be thrashed out.

Our proposals represent the most environmentally effective and practical means of reducing aviation's carbon impact
British Airways head Willie Walsh

The aviation industry's plan is thought to be an attempt to head off criticism from environmental groups over increasing emissions at the Copenhagen meeting.

Mr Walsh spoke to senior executives from Qatar Airways, SAS and the International Air Transport Association at the UN headquarters in New York.

Mr Walsh told the conference: "International aviation emissions were not included in the Kyoto protocol 12 years ago."

However environmental charity Greenpeace was sceptical of the announcement.

"This announcement is little more than an elaborate conjuring trick, designed to make the public think that BA is serious about climate change while it carries on with business as usual," said Vicky Wyatt of the charity.

"The focus must be on reducing demand for flights, which means scrapping plans for a third runway at Heathrow and investing in alternatives such as high-speed rail instead."

'Seize this chance'

Mr Walsh believes it is time to address the omission of aviation emissions from the Kyoto protocol.

"Now we have a chance to rectify that omission, and we must seize it," he said.

"Our proposals represent the most environmentally effective and practical means of reducing aviation's carbon impact.

"They are the best option for the planet and we urge the UN to adopt them."

The proposals are:

• to halve net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, compared with 2005 levels

• to make all industry growth carbon-neutral by 2020

• to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5% each year over the next decade

• to submit plans for joining a global carbon trading scheme to the UN by November 2010.

If these are accepted by the UN, they will be on the agenda at Copenhagen.

Meanwhile, Ed Miliband, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, who is at the New York summit, said achieving a deal on climate change would not be easy.

"Many of the jigsaw pieces are starting to come into place, despite the fact that we are trying to do something incredibly difficult, which is get an agreement among 189 countries and do something the world has never done before, which is cut our overall emissions - global emissions - and that is incredibly hard.

"But I think there's signs from India, from China, from Brazil, and, of course, I think Europe has been doing a job, and indeed I think the political will in the US that exists, I think is encouraging."

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