Today the aviation industry is responsible for about 2% of all GHG emissions. Experts predict that by mid-century, this number could triple without policies designed to combat aircraft emissions due to rapid industry growth. In response, the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) has been negotiating a CO2 emissions standard for aircraft emissions with representatives from its member states, industry and non-governmental organizations. On February 8th, the CAEP unanimously approved a draft measure paving the way for final approval in 2016. If the ICAO emissions standards are approved by the ICAO’s 36-State Governing Council, the new rules will become binding on 191 ICAO member states including the U.S. as a signatory to the 1947 Chicago Convention.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also free to implement stricter standards but traditionally adopts any ICAO emissions standards as its own. In this case, the EPA has signaled it does intend to regulate aviation emissions after proposing that emissions from airplanes endanger human health by contributing to global warming. Future regulations could include a CO2 emissions standards but also market based mechanisms like an emissions trading scheme under authority from §231 of the Clean Air Act.
Immediate reaction to the ICAO’s proposed standards has been mixed with industry supportive while some environmental advocates believe the proposed rules are too weak. The draft standards propose a 4% reduction in fuel consumption for aircrafts delivered after 2028 as well as a 33% emissions reduction for large aircrafts over a 5 year period beginning in 2023.