The European Union has been accused of taking two steps forward and one step back on airline emissions trading.

The World Travel & Tourism Council warned the EU to avoid the imposition of the emissions trading scheme for intra-European air travel after postponing its full introduction earlier this week.

The organisation has long argued that a market-based global mechanism is the best way for aviation to balance its economic and social contribution with its impact on climate change.

The WTTC supports the global role to be played by the International Civil Aviation Organisation and believes the process should be allowed to run its course towards establishing a global market-based mechanism to manage carbon emissions.

President and chief executive David Scowsill said: “It [the EU] has recognised that it must not go it alone on emissions trading and the one-year standstill on the global scheme is both unexpected and welcome.

“However, the decision to retain ETS for intra-European aviation is illogical and possibly counter-productive.

“It is apparent that the original imposition of the emission trading scheme brought the world close to a trade war on this issue, with governments enacting legislation to forbid their national airlines to comply.

“The pressure is now on governments to deliver a solution through the ICAO, before the industry faces another heated debate, deterring barriers for growth in this important global industry.”

He described the postponement of ETS as “a very unexpected but very welcome development, which may now temporarily prevent a full scale trade war”.