WASHINGTON, July 22, 2020 — The Trump administration proposed long-overdue rules today to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from aircraft. The rules, which mirror those adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, are too weak to address the severity of the climate crisis. The EPA itself says it doesn’t expect the rule to result in emissions reductions.
Today’s proposal likely comes in response to a recent legal notice from the Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations, which threatened to sue the Trump administration for delaying these legally required rules. The waiting period for filing that lawsuit expires July 28.
“This toothless proposal does nothing to meaningfully address the serious problem of airplanes’ planet-warming pollution,” said Clare Lakewood, climate legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Trump administration is trying to dodge its legal responsibility and help airlines escape accountability for their dangerous emissions. As the climate crisis deepens, we desperately need technology-forcing standards that actually reduce aircraft pollution.”
The EPA standards mirror international standards adopted by ICAO in 2017. A previous analysis of those international standards found that most airlines in the United States, covering more than three-quarters of aviation demand, already meet these modest pollution limits.
The new rule will only apply to new aircraft, not in-service aircraft. Because aircraft have operational lifetimes of 25 to 30 years, the standards will take decades to cover the United States fleet.
Commercial aviation currently accounts for 9% of all U.S. transportation CO2emissions and 2.4% of CO2 emissions around the globe. This number is expected to grow in the coming decade. Flights departing from airports in the United States and its territories are responsible for almost one-quarter of global passenger transport-related carbon pollution.
In 2016 the EPA determined that aircraft pollution drives climate change and endangers public health and welfare. That determination required officials to set aviation emission limits.
In January 2020, after three years of inaction, the Center and Friends of the Earth, represented by Earthjustice, sent a legal notice to the Environmental Protection Agency threatening to sue the Trump administration for failing to fulfill its obligation under the Clean Air Act to curb greenhouse pollution from airplanes.