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“Make your own special song, even if nobody else sings along”: International aviation emissions and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme

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This article focuses on the escalating international row over the decision by the European Union to include aviation emissions in its Emissions Trading Scheme from 2012 onwards. The main point of controversy is that the ETS will apply to foreign airlines to the extent they operate flights to and from EU airports. The article sheds light on the background of the dispute by providing an overview of the slow progress on aviation emissions under the UNFCCC and the International Civil Aviation Organization. It describes the main features of the EU scheme and discusses the pending request for a preliminary ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union concerning the compatibility of the ETS with international law. The article concludes that there is a good case to be made for the legal design of the EU’s scheme for aviation emissions under international law. Furthermore, from a climate-policy perspective, the scheme can be seen as a necessary first step towards controlling rapidly growing aviation emissions. At the same time, the continuing global impasse on climate change mitigation raises concerns over fragmentation of climate change law and the spread of unilateral climate policies and retaliatory measures.


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