LOS ANGELES – The Center for Biological Diversity today offered live testimony opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed greenhouse gas emissions standards for aircraft. The Center argued at a public hearing that the rules, which mirror those adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, are too weak to address the severity of the climate crisis.

Far from making critical reductions in aircraft emissions, the standards do nothing to force efficiency improvements through either technology or operations changes.

A report last week found that the standards the EPA plans to apply already lag behind industry advances by about 10 years. In fact the EPA itself says it doesn’t expect the rule to result in emissions reductions.

The hearing came as wildfires scorched the West and multiple tropical storms swirled in the Atlantic, with worse to come if greenhouse gases are not sharply curtailed.


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“Hotter heatwaves and worse wildfires will be the end result if the EPA keeps airplane pollution standards grounded in the past,” said Liz Jones, an attorney with the Center’s Climate Law Institute in California. “At a time when we urgently need across-the-board reductions in fossil fuel emissions, the aviation industry is flying in the exact wrong direction. The EPA needs to set real standards that protect our planet and our health.”

Airplane emissions rose by 44% in the past decade, due to increased travel and only slight improvements in fuel efficiency. Ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, emissions were set to triple again by 2050.

Evidence shows aviation pollution can be dramatically reduced through advances already taking place. But it’s no accident that the ICAO set a useless standard. At the ICAO negotiations, “nearly every nation [was] represented by [its] . . . aircraft industry.” In an internal 2016 email, obtained by the Center through a FOIA request, a top EPA director put it bluntly: “environmental protection is not a priority” for most at ICAO.

“Environmental protection is the mandate of the EPA,” said Jones. “The agency needs to set a fleet-wide, technology-forcing standard that brings the U.S.’s outsized emissions into line with climate reality.”