Skip to main content

Obama Administration Urged to Fast-track Airplane Carbon Cuts

Six national environmental organizations today called on the EPA and FAA to move quickly to set emission standards to curb greenhouse gas pollution from the nation’s aircraft fleet.
Aircraft are one of the fastest-growing carbon emissions sources, on track to triple by 2050 without regulations.

Aircraft are one of the fastest-growing carbon emissions sources, on track to triple by 2050 without regulations. Dramatic aviation emission reductions are readily achievable.

Photo courtesy of Angelo DeSantis
January 23, 2015
Washington, D.C. —

Six national environmental organizations yesterday called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to move quickly to set emission standards to curb greenhouse gas pollution from the nation’s aircraft fleet.

In letters to the EPA and the FAA, the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, the National Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and the Sierra Club asked for strong standards that reduce aircraft emissions as quickly as possible. The letters urge the EPA to act under the Clean Air Act “with the goal of proposing final standards no later than the end of 2015.”

In May the EPA will issue a proposed determination of whether aircraft carbon pollution endangers public health or welfare. Today’s letter asks agency officials to simultaneously start analyzing how to make airplanes less polluting. Unless the EPA takes that second step quickly, regulations could be delayed for years.

“The Obama administration needs to finally hold the airline industry accountable for its massive greenhouse gas emissions,” said Vera Pardee, a senior attorney with the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “The EPA has delayed action for years, and our climate is paying the price. It’s time for federal officials to give this rapidly growing source of planet-warming pollution the attention it requires.”

Aircraft are one of the fastest-growing carbon emissions sources, on track to triple by 2050 without regulations. Dramatic aviation emission reductions are readily achievable, a recent International Council on Clean Transportation report shows. Despite the airline industry’s claim that fuel costs already force them to operate as efficiently as possible, the report found a 27 percent gap between the most and least fuel-efficient airlines serving America’s domestic market. 

In 2010, the Center, Friends of the Earth, and other environmental organizations represented by Earthjustice sued to force EPA to set standards on greenhouse gas pollution from aircraft. A judge quickly ruled that the EPA is required to address aircraft emissions under the Clean Air Act. After further delay by the EPA, the groups threatened in 2014 to file a new lawsuit, which finally prompted the agency to launch the first step in its rulemaking process. 

“Airplanes are critical to today’s global economy, and in order to combat climate disruption we need robust performance regulations for the sector,” said Friends of the Earth policy analyst John Kaltenstein. “The Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Aviation Administration must hold all modes of transportation, including the aviation industry, to the highest pollution standards so that we may curb these substantial emissions.”

"Emissions from commercial aircraft are expected to soar in coming decades, so now is the time for the Environmental Protection Agency to set strong standards to ensure our aircraft are more efficient and pump out less carbon pollution,” said Jesse Prentice-Dunn, a campaign representative with the Sierra Club. “The Obama administration has already set historic standards that will double the efficiency of our passenger cars and put new technology to work on freight trucks, all while spurring innovation and saving consumers money at the pump. Strong standards for commercial aircraft can bring those same benefits to a new sector of our economy while using less oil and emitting less carbon pollution than ever before."

Read letter to the EPA supporting strong standards to curb greenhouse has pollution.