Note:  Doaa Abdel Motaal <[email protected]> is Counsellor in the Office of the Director-General of the World Trade Organization. This article is written in her personal capacity and does not in any way reflect the views of the organization or of its members.
Abstract: Two industries have been historically exempt from climate mitigation efforts under the Kyoto Protocol: the international aviation and maritime sectors. This article focuses on the aviation industry, looking at how its “exceptionalism” under Kyoto has fashioned its response to the climate crisis. It is a story of a global industry that has sought to fend off regulation of its CO2 emissions at the global level, until faced with the unilateral imposition by the European Union of its emissions trading scheme on both domestic and international aviation. The EU aviation scheme advantages some carriers while disadvantaging others. Rushed responses by the industry to combat the EU aviation scheme at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have not helped matters, with a solution found at ICAO that would distort intra-industry competition, without necessarily fixing the environmental problem. Legal challenges to the EU scheme in the European Court of Justice by the industry have not borne fruit either, as the industry's arguments have largely been overturned. Today, the industry pays a high price for a muddled approach at the international level to curbing its emissions. Is the lesson that global industries must actively pursue global solutions?