Aviation leaders has called for a global carbon emissions scheme for their industry, arguing that an emerging patchwork of regional and national systems could bring more, not less, environmental damage.

The call, from airlines, plane and engine manufacturers, air traffic control organisations and airports, was twinned with a pledge to push ahead rapidly to achieve widespread use of biofuels on commercial flights.

Delegates at a two-day “Aviation and Environment” conference “underscored the absolute necessity of a global sectoral approach” to emissions and urged the UN’s aviation agency ICAO to renew efforts urgently to shape one, a communique said.

The communique also called on governments to aim to have a deal ready for a December conference in Copenhagen, aimed at producing a new overall climate change treaty to replace Kyoto Protocol which runs out in 2012.

Industry chiefs at the Geneva gathering said they were fully committed to the fight against the global warming that is blamed largely on emissions, and argued that they had already made huge headway in cutting the carbon they produce.

But they voiced strong opposition to a European Union scheme which goes into effect in 2012, saying that it would be unworkable and would meet strong international resistance.

“If we don’t have a global deal by 2012, we will be in a major mess of legal battles around the world,” said Giovanni Bisignani of the global airline body IATA, echoing U.S. warnings that the EU scheme would be challenged through the courts.

LONGER ROUTES

Christoph Franz, CEO of Swiss International Airlines , said the scheme could lead airlines flying from North America to the Middle East, Africa and Asia to take longer routes to avoid landing in Europe.

“This will mean more emissions, exactly the opposite to what the scheme is intended to do,” Franz told delegates.

And Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways, said the EU decision to launch its scheme in the hope that “everybody else will fall in line….is not going to work.”

Under the EU system, part of the 27-nation grouping’s overall efforts to fight climate change by reducing the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere, airlines will have caps on their emissions and have to buy credits if they go over them.

The scheme will apply to all airlines flying into Europe and cover their entire trajectory, meaning that a plane flying from Tokyo, Los Angeles, Sydney or Cape Town will have its emissions counted from takeoff to landing at a European airport.

Airlines, already facing massive losses of $4,7-billion this year as a result of the global recession, argue that this is a violation of international aviation agreements.

But so far efforts at ICAO, the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organisation, to reach an inter-governmental agreement on a global deal – that airlines say should mean the EU scheme would be dropped – have failed.

Officials say developing countries, who already fear their carriers will be badly hit by the EU scheme, are concerned that a global arrangement would be worse for them and are seeking cast-iron guarantees of special treatment.