The US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) found on Wednesday that greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft are harmful to humans and the environment, a so-called endangerment finding that paves the way for the sector’s emissions to be regulated.
The initial finding, if confirmed later this year following a consultation, could allow the Obama administration to implement a global carbon dioxide emissions standard being developed by the ICAO, the UN aviation agency.
The EPA said it took “a preliminary but necessary first step to begin to address greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector”, following on from the agency’s regulation of motor vehicles, power plants and buildings.
It said US aviation emissions account for 29% of the world’s total emissions from the sector and 0.5% of global greenhouse gas output.
The ICAO is due to release its CO2 standard in early 2016 and adopt it later in the year but the requirement under consideration would only affect new designs from 2020, leaving most carriers unaffected for their standard 20-30 years of service.
Andrew Murphy of Brussels-based environmental campaigners T&E welcomed the move and told Carbon Pulse it could pile further pressure on ICAO to speed its work on a global measure to offset emissions from the sector from 2020.
The EPA announced last September that it would study whether to regulate carbon emissions from airplanes, something that Europe has been doing since early 2012 and which drew protests from many countries including the US.
The EPA in 2009 found that vehicular emissions harmed human health by contributing to climate change, and in 2012 a court ruled that the agency had a similar duty under the US Clean Air Act to make a final determination regarding CO2 from airplanes.
According to experts, the rules are unlikely to come into force until 2018 at the earliest.
By Ben Garside – firstname.lastname@example.org