Opening for EU-US cooperation on effective aviation CO2 standard

The EU is facing calls to work with the US government to ensure global standards being developed to regulate aviation’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are effective – after the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) finding last month that emissions from aircraft endanger human health.

The EPA was forced to issue its endangerment finding after it was sued by a number of American environmental groups. It had already ruled that GHGs from cars and power plants were harmful to public health because of their climate impact. Now, due to the US Clean Air Act, the executive agency will be required to regulate this source of emissions for the first time.

It could do this by adopting the standards that the UN’s civil aviation body, ICAO, is drafting. But environmentalists fear that if industry gets its way, these are likely to be largely ineffective and only regulate 5% of the global fleet in 2030.

T&E said the EU and US need to step up cooperation at ICAO to ensure an environmentally effective CO2 standard for new aircraft. Alternatively, the US and EU could draft their own standards, which could potentially be much more effective in reducing emissions from the sector.

Bill Hemmings, aviation policy manager at T&E, said: ‘Europe should work with the US to ensure that the ICAO standards, which are in the final stages of development, are greatly improved. If that fails, the EU should join forces with the US to introduce stricter standards for the European and US markets – effectively the world aviation market.

‘An effective standard is one with a stringency that results in emission reductions beyond business-as-usual and with a scope that includes in-production aircraft and not just potential future designs.’

Europe has faced criticism for being left behind on fuel economy standards in the trucking sector as well as aviation. The EPA also announced last month a target to improve lorry fuel efficiency by 24% by 2027. T&E said that, on top of limits announced in 2011, this was a wake-up call to the EU that has failed to regulate heavy-duty vehicles' CO2 emissions. Europe currently only plans to introduce a monitoring scheme for lorry CO2.

The contrast between the EU position and the more progressive US stance was highlighted again in June when the EPA’s director of transportation and air quality told Aviation Week the draft global CO2 standard for aviation ‘should drive innovation and reductions beyond business as usual’.