Given their rapidly increasing contribution to the climate change problem, calls for regulation of emissions from the international aviation sector have become stronger in recent years. The Kyoto Protocol has delegated the adoption of mitigation measures to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), with only modest results to date.

A core challenge in crafting international regulation for international aviation emissions is the differential treatment of developed and developing countries in a sector that is otherwise characterised by equality of treatment. This article shows how the ICAO has struggled to find a balance between the two approaches, and traces the evolution of the European Union’s approach to differentiation, which included international aviation in its emissions trading system as of 2012.

The authors argue that reconciling differential and equal treatment is likely to include the use of contextual norms applying differential treatment at the implementation stage, specifically through financial, technological, and capacity-building assistance arrangements.

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