The first CO2 standard for the global aviation industry has been unveiled by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations specialised agency, the result of six years’ work by a task force of experts from governments and observers. Airlines currently account for about 2% of global emissions, but with the expected growth in air travel, their share of global emissions are expected to rise.
The CO2 Standard will apply to all new aircraft models launched after 2020. The standard will also be phased in for all existing aircraft types rolling off the production line from 2023, even if they were designed and launched prior to 2020. A production cut-off-date of 2028 has been recommended for any aircraft that do not comply with the CO2 Standard.
The new standards would require a 4% reduction in fuel consumption of new aircraft starting in 2028, compared with 2015 deliveries. Depending on the size of the aircraft, actual reductions would be from zero to 11%, with a bigger emphasis on larger commercial airplanes.
The standard will be reviewed periodically to increase its stringency in line with technology advancement.
Before they become binding, the new standards must be formally adopted by the civil aviation council of 36 member states in June, and then endorsed by the council’s assembly in October. They would then need to be enacted by each member state in its national legislation or regulation, although countries have the option to adopt even stricter restrictions on emissions.
The Obama administration last year issued a legal finding that aviation emissions are a threat to human health because of their contribution to global warming. That finding initiated a requirement under the Clean Air Act that the government release new regulations to curb airplane emissions.
The Air Transport Action Group, a cross-industry organisation focusing on sustainable aviation, has welcomed the CO2 Standard as part of a wider series of actions aimed at tackling aviation’s climate change impact.
“Today’s decision on the ICAO CO2 Standard provides a significant step towards the industry’s long-term goal to halve aviation CO2 and much-needed momentum ahead of the ICAO Assembly in September, at which governments are expected to agree on a global market-based measure for aviation,” said Michael Gill, ATAG executive director. He called the CO2 Standard a “milestone on the road towards this year’s ICAO Assembly and the discussion to deliver a robust global offsetting scheme with which we can cap growth in CO2 emissions from 2020.”
He added, “The CO2 Standard places an obligation on manufacturers and the market-based measure will do the same thing for airlines and other operators. Both steps are an integral part of the aviation sector’s plan for capping CO2 emissions from 2020 and then halving them by 2050, based on 2005 levels.”