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US environment agency begins work towards tackling domestic aircraft emissions

5th September, 2014

Image Credit: Rudi Riet via Flickr

Image Credit: Rudi Riet via Flickr

Bloomberg today (5/9/14) reported that the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) will be examining the health risks from aircraft emissions as the first stage in the process towards the regulation of US aviation emissions.

If the study finds that aircraft emissions do present a risk to public health – likely given the EPA’s endangerment finding in 2009 that greenhouse gas emissions present a risk to the health and welfare of US citizens – the EPA would be required to introduce legislation to reduce aviation CO2 emissions.

The EPA has stated that legislation is likely to be in the form of an aircraft emissions standard currently being developed at ICAO. However, If ICAO’s standard is delayed or lacks ambition, then there is a very real prospect that the EPA’s findings will lead to calls for the US to initiate more stringent action.

This would mean the US introducing its own regional action to tackle aviation emissions, a surprising but welcome turnaround given its vehement opposition to the EU’s own regional Emissions Trading System. The US therefore has a vested interest in ICAO’s work to develop a CO2 standard for new aircraft.

Many environmental NGOs, including AEF, are engaged in ICAO’s work to develop an efficiency standard for aircraft and a global market-based measure, but this support has also been conditional on producing timely and effective outcomes. In their absence, regional action will always be encouraged.


The EPA will report its findings in April 2015.

The United States is required under the Clean Air Act to tackle emissions from aircraft.