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'Historic' aviation agreement reached on carbon emissions

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A landmark agreement to control CO2 emissions from international aviation has been reached at the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) 39th Assembly in Montreal.

The deal was reached on Thursday, with 191 countries agreeing to a global market-based measure (GMBM) to "control" CO2 emissions from flying.

The ICAO said its Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) would complement a raft of "mitigation measures" the air transport industry was already looking at to cut CO2 emissions.

The new system will be voluntary between 2021 and 2026 and then compulsory from 2027 for countries with big aviation industries, Reuters reported. Carbon credits from environmental projects will need to be bought in order to offset any increase in emissions, Reuters added.

"We now have practical agreement and consensus on this issue backed by a large number of states who will voluntarily participate in the GMBM – and from its outset," Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, ICAO council president, said in a news release. "This will permit the CORSIA to serve as a positive and sustainable contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions reduction," Aliu added.

The ICAO's announcement is significant because the Paris Agreement – reached at last year's COP21 summit – did not cover aviation. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) praised Thursday's agreement.

"The historic significance of this agreement cannot be overestimated," Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO of the IATA, said. "CORSIA is the first global scheme covering an entire industrial sector. The CORSIA agreement has turned years of preparation into an effective solution for airlines to manage their carbon footprint."

The U.K.'s aviation minister, Lord Ahmed, described the scheme as an "unprecedented deal, the first of its kind for any sector."

"For years, the U.K. has pushed to tackle aviation emissions globally," Ahmed went on to say. "Now, 191 countries have agreed on a global measure and sent a clear message that aviation will play its part in combating climate change."