The European Union is offering fresh concessions on its controversial scheme to tackle airlines’ emissions in exchange for international co-operation to set up a global scheme.

The European Commission is willing to limit the scope of the EU scheme against airlines based outside its airspace if the International Civil Aviation Organisation – which sets global aviation standards – endorses a global scheme to reduce carriers’ carbon dioxide emissions.

The EU ran into strong opposition from countries including the US, Brazil, China, India and Russia after last year bringing foreign as well as European airlines within its carbon emissions trading scheme.

A provisional deal at the governing council of the United Nations’ aviation body on Wednesday was seen as a diplomatic breakthrough after more than year of tensions between the EU and critics of the scheme.

China has suspended billions of dollars’ of purchases of Airbus aircraft from Europe over the row and airlines have warned of chaos caused by other possible retaliatory measures, such as restrictions on foreign airspace.

But the airline industry sounded an upbeat note after the draft deal, while experts warned key details must still be hashed out at a full assembly of Montreal-based ICAO later this month.

Under the draft compromise, international flights would be covered to the extent they use European airspace.

For a flight from London to New York an airline would have to declare its emissions inside European airspace. Once the aircraft left EU airspace to cross the Atlantic, its emissions would no longer be counted.

An IATA spokesman told Reuters: “We are optimistic that the Assembly will make progress, provided they keep focused on achieving an agreement on a global scheme.”

The new compromise would require countries to make a decision on finding a “market-based mechanism” for reducing airline emissions by 2016.

But environmental groups are likely to oppose the agreement, which falls short of the EU’s original objectives.