In October 2013 the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) promised to introduce a global market based mechanism to address the climate change emissions of international civil aviation. This deal marks a new twist in the attempt by the EU since 2008, to implement a mandatory Aviation Emission Trading Scheme (AETS) permit requirements for all flights, to and from EU airspace. Opposition to the EU's AETS, had been led by Chinese, Indian, and American airlines or governments, through legal actions and threatened 'trade wars'. Has the EU's unilateralism now paid off and should we celebrate the EU as a soft-power climate-change champion? This paper argues for a more cautious and critical view. Firstly, the EU has substantially backtracked by agreeing to postpone the requirement for carbon permits for international flights until a new 2016 deadline. Secondly, the victory of achieving some sort of watered down globalised emissions trading regime for aviation may be Pyrrhic. The ICAO has only promised a global aviation emissions-trading system to be in place by 2020. This is a full seven years after the EU had wanted the AETS in place for EU-international flights. In any event, there are growing doubts about the effectiveness of carbon trading instruments, their amenability to market failure, manipulation and fraud. Rather than reveal the EUs green credentials, the story of the EU AETS for aviation is a rather classic example of bureaucratic policy entrepreneurship, chiefly located within the Commission. Moreover, it raises questions about the effectiveness of a EU strategy of what can be termed 'punctuated unilateralism'.