ICAO Group Sets New CO2 Standard for Aviation

 - February 9, 2016, 10:10 AM
The new emissions standard recommended by ICAO sets the most stringent limits on aircraft weighing more than 60 metric tons. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY-ND) by Anhedral)

A new United Nations standard for aircraft carbon dioxide emissions recommended on February 8 by 170 experts on the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Committee on Aviation  Environmental Protection (CAEP) met with the endorsement of manufacturers, regulators and lobbying groups alike, including Airbus, Boeing, Airports Council International and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

Under the CAEP recommendations, the new emissions standard would apply to new aircraft type designs as of 2020, as well as new deliveries of current in-production aircraft models from 2023. The recommendations also included a cut-off date of 2028 for production of aircraft that do not comply with the standard.

According to ICAO, the most stringent aspects of the standard apply to “larger” aircraft, although it noted that it took “great care” to ensure that the proposal covers a full range of sizes and aircraft types while taking into account technological feasibility, emissions reduction potential and cost considerations. “Operations of aircraft weighing over 60 [metric tons] account for more than 90 percent of international aviation emissions,” said ICAO in a statement. “They also have access to the broadest range of emissions reduction technologies, which the standard recognizes.”

Nevertheless, both of the world’s manufacturers of large commercial airplanes commended the ICAO committee for its work.  

“Boeing is fully committed to meeting the new CO2 emissions standard announced by ICAO,” said the U.S. manufacturer in a statement issued Tuesday. “This agreement represents real progress beyond the substantial industry achievements already made to reduce aviation emissions, with more steps ahead.”

In its own statement, Airbus said it welcomed the new CO2 emissions standard, as did global airport trade association Airports Council International (ACI). “Today's agreement represents an important next step in aviation’s commitment to tackle climate change, and ICAO is to be commended for agreeing on the CO2 standard,” said Angela Gittens, director general of ACI World. “The industry is moving forward collectively with ambitious goals—and more importantly making measureable progress—to cap net CO2 emissions from 2020 and reduce net CO2 emissions from aviation to half of 2005 levels by 2050.”

The ICAO standard follows series of industry initiatives aimed at reducing aviation’s effect on the climate. For its part, ACI in 2009 launched what it calls the Airport Carbon Accreditation program, which helps airports become certified across four levels, namely mapping, reduction, optimization and neutrality. As of early January, 151 airports representing 31.2 percent of global air passenger traffic had gained their certification, said ACI.

The FAA, meanwhile, cited its own Continuous Lower Energy Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) Program, through which the administration works with industry on accelerating the maturation of new aircraft and engine technologies to reduce fuel burn. It also pointed to its broader modernization efforts, including the installation of more than 7,000 GPS-based NextGen procedures, the majority of which it says result in more efficient routing, thereby reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

“I am pleased that ICAO reached an international consensus on a meaningful standard to foster reduction in CO2 emissions from aircraft,” added FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We are encouraged by this success and believe it puts us on a promising path to secure a robust market-based measure later this year.”