For Immediate Release, September 8, 2020


Liz Jones, (310) 612-1018,

Airplane Pollution Standards Lag 10 Years Behind Technology: Report

EPA Using Outmoded Standards for Do-nothing Rule

WASHINGTON— International airplane standards for planet-warming pollution lag behind industry advances by about a decade, according to a report released today by the International Council on Clean Transportation.

The report finds that in 2016 average new commercial jets already met the International Civil Aviation Organization’s CO2 emissions standard for 2028. By 2019 average new jets already surpassed the 2028 standard, with multiple aircraft designs doing better than the standard by between 10% and 20%.

This summer, instead of setting more ambitious targets, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed to adopt that same useless 2028 emissions standard for new U.S. planes, despite evidence that it will yield no additional emissions reductions.

“With global temperatures soaring from climate change, there’s no excuse for keeping aircraft pollution standards grounded in the past,” said Liz Jones, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This report proves that the EPA is proposing a do-nothing rule that fails to account for existing advances, much less promote innovation. To solve the climate crisis, we have to bring airplane emissions down dramatically.”

The report looked at aircraft fuel burn trends over the past six decades. Overall average fuel burn has fallen by about 1.3% annually since 1960, driven by more fuel-efficient aircraft. And manufacturers could do even better. The report notes that the rate of fuel burn reduction for new aircraft could be accelerated up to 2.2% per year through 2034.

Despite these gains improvements in efficiency have been outpaced by growing passenger traffic. Overall carbon dioxide emissions from commercial aviation increased by 44% over the past 10 years and ahead of the coronavirus pandemic were set to triple again by 2050.

Aviation already accounts for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas pollution. If commercial aviation were considered a country, it would rank seventh after Germany in terms of carbon emissions.

“The EPA has the authority and data it needs to set science-based standards that drive down airplane pollution quickly,” said Jones. “The climate crisis won’t be put on standby, and emissions standards shouldn’t be either.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.