Protests against the European Union's decision to unilaterally apply its Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) to the global aviation industry are understandable, but so too is the bloc's refusal to suspend the directive.
Nations, airlines and associations opposed to the EU ETS champion instead a global system for regulating the industry's carbon emissions, developed through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). But the EU is right to be sceptical; ICAO has so far had 15 years in which to produce results, to no avail.
The EU's stubbornness and resulting threats of retaliatory action, while worrying for European airlines, have at least spurred on ICAO's efforts. Its chief executive has vowed to have a proposal on the table by the end of this year. For the EU to back down now would risk losing that long-awaited momentum.
In the meantime, however, it is increasingly difficult to dismiss threats of reprisal as an attempt to call the EU's bluff. China's ambassador to the EU was quick to quash rumours that the country has blocked its airlines from purchasing Airbus aircraft because of the EU ETS, yet Beijing has already issued a directive banning the country's airlines from complying with the scheme. Russia and the US have similar legislation in the pipeline.
Nine of Europe's aviation big guns have written to their governments appealing for further consultation. While the industry awaits ICAO's offerings, the EU should consider that showing a degree of flexibility - while sticking to the principle of the EU ETS - may be the only way to avert a trade war.
(This article first appeared as the second leader in Flight International 20 March)