EPA issues NPRM on Aviation CO2
Opponents argue “not enough”
ICAO standard for GLOBAL CO2 is precarious compromise
The Environmental Protection Agency issued an NPRM entitled Control of Air Pollution from Airplanes and Airplane Engines: GHG Emission Standards and Test Procedures which “would apply to certain new commercial airplanes, including all large passenger jets. These proposed standards would match the international airplane carbon dioxide (CO2) standards adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2017. This proposed action, if finalized, would implement EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act and would maintain the worldwide acceptance of U.S. manufactured airplanes and airplane engines.”
The critical words in this paragraph are “standards adopted by”. A CO2 rule is meaningless unless it is applicable to airplanes wherever they operate. The ICAO agreement was not easily reached. There were years of technical meetings called Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) is a technical committee of the ICAO Council established in 1983. The formulation of the standards then moved to the Council and Assembly where the countries representatives fine tuned the final rule.
There were attempts to make the standards more stringent which found great opposition among some nations. Conversely, others sought to reduce the goals to more attainable levels. These discussions attracted high level interest from outside of Montreal with even the US Senate expressing its position. As with many of the UN aviation body’s agreements, the standard and system of seeking compliance were the result of intricate, multilateral compromises. The balance reached is a delicate one, particularly as the CORSIA system is implemented.
Below, Center for Biological Diversity and International Council on Clean Transportation argue against the EPA adoption of the CO2 standards. While their technical positions may have merit, if the US were to materially change the ICAO standards, the global standards likely would fall apart. The Green Organizations would rush to Montreal asserting that CORSIA MUST be immediately UPGRADED to the “new” EPA/FAA criteria. Anyone familiar with the ICAO deliberative processes would project a new standard by 2025 at the earliest.
By Ellen Knickmeyer and David Koenig | APJuly 22, 2020 at 2:43 p.m. EDT
The Trump administration said Wednesday that it plans to adopt aircraft emissions standards modeled on international ones, a move it says will not further reduce climate-damaging emissions from planes.
Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the change “strikes the right regulatory balance” and would ensure that U.S.-made airliners and large business jets meet the demands of the global market.
Environmental groups, which had threatened to sue EPA over delays in setting greenhouse gas limits for aviation, said the agency’s proposal does not go far enough.
Another environmental group, the International Council on Clean Transportation, said the standard is already out of date and won’t speed investment in more fuel-efficient engines and planes. The average new plane delivered last year was already 6% more fuel efficient than EPA’s rules would require in 2028, said Sola Zheng, lead author of an upcoming study by the group.
The U.S. needed to adopt a rule at least as tough as the one being put in place by the International Civil Aviation Organization to sell and operate planes overseas. Boeing and Airlines for America, a trade group for the biggest U.S. airlines, praised the EPA’s decision.
The new standard for planes is “a major step forward for protecting the environment and supporting sustainable growth of commercial aviation and the United States economy,” said Boeing spokesperson Bryan Watt. Aircraft fuel efficiency has improved 50% since 1990, and the EPA proposal will help aircraft manufacturers continue making technological innovations for more fuel efficiency, he said.
President Donald Trump’s administration largely has resisted calls from scientists and others for swift, large-scale action to cut the burning of oil, natural gas and coal to stave off the worst of climate change. The administration pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord and weakened Obama-era initiatives to reduce emissions from vehicles and power plants.
Wheeler told reporters that the administration is working to curb fossil fuel emissions but is “doing it in a thoughtful manner that protects our manufacturing base.”
The new U.S. proposal is modeled on a change adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency, to limit climate-damaging carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Since airline makers globally are expected to follow the new international standards anyway, “the EPA is not projecting emission reductions associated with today’s proposed GHG regulations,” or greenhouse gas rules, the EPA description of the change notes.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak hit demand for air travel, the international agency predicted emissions from planes will grow at least 3% a year globally because of rising traffic, even with cleaner planes.
The Obama administration concluded that aviation contributes to climate change, endangering public health. That set Wednesday’s proposed rule in motion. The EPA says U.S. aviation accounts for 3% of the country’s overall climate-changing emissions.
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 The International Council on Clean Transportation is an independent nonprofit organization founded to provide first-rate, unbiased research and technical and scientific analysis to environmental regulators. Our mission is to improve the environmental performance and energy efficiency of road, marine, and air transportation, in order to benefit public health and mitigate climate change.
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