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US Environmental Protection Agency finds aviation CO2 emissions a threat to public health

10th June, 2015


The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today announced its long awaited endangerment finding about carbon dioxide emissions from the aviation sector being a threat to public health.

The finding means that US domestic aviation emissions would be covered under the Clean Air Act, paving the way for the agency to introduce some form of regulation, likely to be a domestic aircraft efficiency standard for aviation CO2 emissions.

The EPA could elect to use the global efficiency standard being developed at the UN aviation body (ICAO) which is set to be completed by early 2016. However, there are concerns that the standard being negotiated could be too weak to form an adequate response to the endangerment finding, especially if it excludes, or applies a less stringent requirement to, existing in-production aircraft types such as the Dreamliner 787. In contrast, future new aircraft types are likely to make up just 5% of the global fleet in 2030, meaning that a standard applicable only to these aircraft is likely to be very slow in driving efficiency improvements.

Organisations involved in ICSA, the group of environmental organisations attending ICAO which AEF is part of, are engaged with the on-going process to develop a global emissions standard.

If the international standard is deemed too weak there is the possibility that the EPA could be required to introduce its own more stringent standard. Given the size of the US aviation sector, a more stringent domestic standard could drive global improvements.