First Emission Standards for Aviation Sector

by Judy Li

An interesting article by Jad Mouawad and Coral Davenport in the New York Times discusses the first binding limits on carbon dioxide emissions from the aviation sector. After more than six years of negotiations among the global aviation industry, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations’ aviation agency, announced the new rules on February 8.

Airlines produce 2% of global emissions and the percentage is expected to increase as air travel grows. Part of international efforts to address climate change, this is the first deal to address carbon emissions from airplanes. Starting in 2028, new aircraft would need a 4% reduction in fuel consumption relative to 2015 levels. Before the standards become binding, the new standards must be formally adopted and enacted.

Environmental groups say that the proposed rules are too weak considering the size of the airline industry and fail to include current aircrafts, while advocates say it is an important first step for international cooperation. Airlines have always argued that emission limits need to be applied globally. In contrast to airlines, automakers have been subject to emission standards and are in fact required to double their fuel economy by 2025. Others say that the agreement would at least ensure the benefits from current technological gains. The new standards would force plane makers to stop producing less efficient planes and encourage them to make even more fuel efficient ones.

Following other initiatives to combat global warming, the Obama administration ruled that aviation emissions are a threat to human health of their contribution to global warming. Subsequently, the Clean Air Act requires the government to release new regulations to curb airplane emissions but the administrations decided to wait for the new international rules before producing its own standard. Environmental groups are pushing for the Obama administration to adopt stricter regulations than the aviation group’s standards. As the largest aviation market in the world, the US would encourage other countries to also adopt stricter regulations. (



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