Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 28, 2020


Liz Jones, (310) 612-1018,

Trump Administration Finalizes Do-nothing ‘Standards’ for Airplane Climate Emissions

EPA Rule Requires No Action, Provides No Emissions Reductions

WASHINGTON— The Trump administration announced today that it finalized new regulations of airplane climate emissions that fail to force greenhouse gas reductions through either technology or operations changes.

The aviation sector was previously the largest unregulated transportation source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. But the new Trump standards, signed Wednesday, won’t force plane manufacturers or airlines to make any changes to cut harmful climate pollution.

“This is another industry handout from an administration that’s hell-bent on hamstringing efforts to tackle the climate crisis and maintain a livable planet,” said Liz Jones, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “It’s now up to the Biden administration to step up and actually cut aviation emissions as part of an ambitious climate agenda.”

The Environmental Protection Agency determined in 2016 that aircraft pollution drives climate change and endangers public health. The United States contributes about a quarter of worldwide aviation greenhouse gas emissions. The emissions from U.S. aircraft alone are higher than the total emissions of more than 150 countries. Over the past decade, airplane emissions rose by 44% and were set to triple again by 2050 ahead of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, more than four years after its initial endangerment finding, the EPA has now finalized standards that lag behind existing technology by more than 10 years. The new standards won’t apply to in-service airplanes and won’t apply to new in-production airplanes until 2028. At that point the EPA expects all airplanes to already comply with the standards or be phased out. As a result the agency doesn’t project any emissions reductions from the rule.

“This rule is especially infuriating because there are effective ways for the aviation industry to modernize and decarbonize,” said Jones. “What we desperately need are technology-forcing standards to get the industry on track.”

Earlier this year the Center released a report that explained how climate pollution from U.S. aviation could be cut by three-quarters or more in the next 20 years.

When Trump’s rule was proposed, the Center and its allies — more than 100 environmental and health groups and 12 states — submitted comments highlighting why it is illegal and shortsighted.

Unless Biden’s EPA moves immediately to replace the Trump rule, the Center is prepared to launch a legal challenge.

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.

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