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 December 07, 2011
Court to decide on EU aviation emissions trading case before Christmas

 Official confirms final ruling on whether it is legal to make airlines join emissions trading scheme will be made on 21 December

The European Court of Justice is poised to make a final decision on the legality of EU plans that will force airlines to purchase carbon credits to cover the emissions of all flights in and out of the bloc's airports.

A spokesman for the Court told BusinessGreen that the ruling will be delivered on 21 December, rather than in January as had been expected.

"There had been no date set until this one," he said. "If the case had taken the average length of time these things usually take it would have been in January, but the Court has moved quicker."

The formal ruling is widely expected to uphold a preliminary judgement made in October, which dismissed US airlines' accusations that the EU had exceeded its jurisdiction and violated international aviation treaties by incorporating aviation in its emissions trading scheme (ETS).

The move should clear the way for airlines to begin buying EU carbon allowances as part of the ETS from 1 January, as originally envisaged, although appeals and the threat of further legal action by Chinese carriers could still disrupt the plans.

Airlines are concerned that the plans could spark trade wars or even tit-for-tat legislation, a fear given more credence by a bill passed in the US House of Representatives that will impose heavy fines on any of the country's carriers that comply with the EU emissions trading rules.

US and EU representatives will meet in Washington this Thursday to discuss the move, which could save around 183 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2020.

To date, Brussels has stood firm on its plans and refused pleas to exempt non-EU airlines.

The European Commission agrees with the industry that a global solution to cut emissions would be preferable, but argues that, with little sign of such a deal on the horizon, it must take action to limit the sector's emissions.

The stance has won support from green groups, which urged the US to stop fighting the legislation and work with the EU instead.

"The US should follow words with action and co-operate with Europe in proposing enforceable emissions reductions for the aviation sector," said Pamela Campos, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement.

"It's time for the US to stop complaining about Europe's actions, and instead put homegrown ingenuity to work with our diplomatic allies to show that there is a pathway to sustainable, climate-sensitive air travel."