Commercial flights in and out of Europe will continue to be exempt from the EU's carbon emission controls, heading off a potential confrontation with the airline industry.
MEPs today approved a report by Julie Girling MEP which extends the exemption until 2021, when the International Civil Aviation Authority is due to introduce a global carbon offsetting scheme for the sector, capping emissions at 2020 levels.
In the meantime the EU's aviation Emissions Trading Scheme will continue to cover only internal EU flights.
Mrs Girling, Conservative MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, is environment co-ordinator for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament. She said: "It is sensible to maintain the status quo until there is further clarity on the ICAO scheme. At that point we will be able to judge whether it can deliver its objectives.
"The EU is already leading the way on tackling this issue and we must not let the pace slacken."
Direct CO2 emissions from aviation account for three per cent of the EU total and this will increase significantly unless effective action is taken. If global aviation was a country it would rank among the world's top ten carbon emitters.
When the EU attempted to impose its Emissions Trading Scheme on all flights in and out of the bloc in 2012, the US prepared laws making it illegal to pay the tariff and China threatened to withhold aircraft orders from Airbus.
The EU subsequently backed down and granted an exemption which is now up for renewal.