by Deedee Chao
The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) wrapped up its landmark 10th meeting on February 12th, 2016, and reported progress in different environmental and sustainable areas for aviation, including commitment towards sustainable alternative fuels and the creation of an international aviation market-based measure for emissions. Most notably, the CAEP/10 created a new ICAO aircraft CO2 emissions standard, the first of its kind for any aviation sector.
The measure was unanimously recommended by the entire Committee, leading to adoption by the agency’s Governing Council, which is composed of 36 of 191 Member States; it was subsequently signed by 23 of the 36 states in the Council. This international agreement is essentially a pledge to commit to new, more stringent standards for aircraft, and like the UN’s other international agreements, primarily relies on positive peer pressure among countries and their oath to the standard.
The new standard calls for a 4% reduction in fuel consumption for the following: all commercial aircraft built after 2028, new aircraft designs from 2020 and onwards, and deliveries of current in-production aircraft designs from 2023 and onwards. The ICAO emphasizes that the new standard will have an impact where it matters most, as it encompasses large commercial aircraft, which are responsible for over 90% of international carbon emissions from aviation. These measures are meant to ensure that the next generation of aircraft will guarantee lower international carbon emissions, which is also why the deadlines are set several years into the future. Before then, however, commercial aircraft and other types of aviation will still continue business as usual, with the same carbon footprint as they have had up to date.
While this is a positive step forward, it is important to keep in mind that even with improved fuel efficiency, commercial aircraft usage is only increasing alongside globalization, and the overall level of emissions is likely to still rise, unless more drastic measures are implemented and technological innovation makes it possible to further increase fuel efficiency.
ICAO Environment Committee Wraps Up Landmark 10th Meeting. ICAO. February 12, 2016. (http://www.icao.int/Newsroom/Pages/ICAO-Environment-Committee-Wraps-up-Landmark-10th-Meeting.aspx)
Lindon, H. 2016. International Agreement to Cut Commercial Airline Carbon Emissions Signed by 23 Countries. February 14, 2016. (http://sustainnovate.ae/en/industry-news/detail/international-agreement-to-cut-commercial-airline-carbon-emissions-signed-b)
New ICAO Aircraft CO2 Standard One Step Closer To Final Adoption. ICAO. February 8, 2016. (http://www.icao.int/Newsroom/Pages/New-ICAO-Aircraft-CO2-Standard-One-Step-Closer-To-Final-Adoption.aspx)