The aviation and shipping sectors would be included in global carbon-cutting measures for the first time under a European Union proposal to be tabled at December’s Copenhagen climate conference.

Aircraft and ships were left out of the 1997 Kyoto protocol but would have to cut global emissions 10 per cent and 20 per cent respectively by 2020, EU environment ministers said after meeting in Luxembourg.

The decision by the EU’s 27 member states helped patch divisions that emerged after finance ministers failed to reach agreement on Tuesday on how to share the financial burden of helping developing countries meet climate change goals.

Some European governments fear that, unless the EU succeeds in defining its stance on this issue quickly, the bloc will lose influence over the ultimate shape of an international climate change deal.

Diplomats said one obstacle to an agreement this week was Poland, a coal-dependent nation that faces challenging emissions reduction targets of its own. Warsaw said central and eastern EU states should not be asked to pay too much in assistance to developing countries.

The other obstacle was Germany, which was unable to define its position until a new government was formed after last month’s elections.

The question of climate change financing is now expected to dominate a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on October 29-30, with some countries – notably Denmark, the host of the December talks, and Sweden, the holder of the EU’s rotating presidency – worried that time is running out for the EU to make its position clear.

Although aircraft and ships account for only about 5 per cent of global emissions the figure is rising rapidly and dealing with the sectors is expected to be one of the contentious issues in the negotiations. The EU’s own position was agreed in spite of resistance from the industries and some member states, such as Greece and Malta, which have extensive shipping sectors.

Stavros Dimas, the EU’s environment commissioner, told the Financial Times recently that imposing emissions restrictions on the sectors – either through an auctioning system or carbon tax – could result in as much as €30bn ($45bn, £27bn) in annual revenue. That money could account for at least some of the funding that developing countries are demanding as part of a deal to cope with rising temperatures.

The shipping and aviation agreement means that climate financing is the only issue yet to be agreed by EU member states ahead of Copenhagen.

“We have from the environment council a complete negotiating mandate for Copenhagen, except for the finance,” said Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s departing environment minister.

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