Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Europe’s second-largest airline, handed back 50 million euros ($68 million) of unused European Union carbon permits after the bloc suspended its cap on international flight emissions.

Airlines led by Lufthansa, Air France-KLM Group and British Airways returned EU Aviation Allowances worth a total $681 million, based on yesterday’s closing price on ICE Futures Europe exchange. The companies handed back 103 million permits, the European Commission said in a statement.

More than 400 aircraft operators worldwide were exempted from the pollution limits for a year following protests from countries including China, the U.S. and Russia. The curbs were rolled back to cover only emissions from flights within EU airspace instead of entire routes to and from the region.

The EU stopped enforcing the limits to “create a positive atmosphere” for United Nations-sponsored talks on a global emissions market for aviation, Connie Hedegaard, the bloc’s climate chief, said in November. Nations are meeting in Montreal until Oct. 4 to iron out differences for a market-based mechanism to cut airlines’ greenhouse-gas output.

Isaac Valero-Ladron, a spokesman for the EU’s climate commissioner, didn’t return an e-mail seeking comment.

The unused allowances for 2012 will be re-sold to the market as permits valid for the period from 2013 through 2020, according to the commission, the regulatory arm of the EU. The total that had been set aside for auctioning in the period will be reduced by the same amount, the commission said.

The EU’s Emissions Trading System is the cornerstone of the bloc’s plan to cut greenhouse gases that scientists blame for global warming. It imposes pollution limits on factories, airlines and power companies that have to submit one emission permit for every metric ton of carbon dioxide they discharge or pay a fine.

Editors: Andrew Reierson, Lars Paulsson. To contact the reporter on this story: Alessandro Vitelli in London at To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lars Paulsson at