A single airplane flies across a deep blue sky, leaving behind a trail.

Aircraft Emissions

Avi­a­tion emis­sions are a sig­nif­i­cant source of the world’s total green­house gas emis­sions, and the air­line indus­try in the Unit­ed States is the sin­gle largest emit­ter of avi­a­tion emis­sions. Glob­al­ly, the avi­a­tion indus­try is respon­si­ble for approx­i­mate­ly 2.4 per­cent of all car­bon diox­ide emis­sions and 12 per­cent of green­house gas emis­sions from all trans­porta­tion sources. The Unit­ed States con­tributes more than a quar­ter of glob­al avi­a­tion green­house gas emis­sions, and its emis­sions from air­craft alone are high­er than total green­house gas emis­sions in more than 150 coun­tries. Green­house gas emis­sions from U.S. air­craft are expect­ed to grow 43 per­cent in the next two decades, and glob­al­ly, avi­a­tion emis­sions are expect­ed to triple by 2050.


  • August 2020

    In August 2020, the EPA pub­lished a pro­posed rule set­ting hol­low green­house gas emis­sions stan­dards for air­planes that would result in no actu­al reduc­tion in emis­sions. The EPA’s pro­pos­al mir­rors a set of stan­dards devel­oped by the Inter­na­tion­al Civ­il Avi­a­tion Orga­ni­za­tion in 2016, which were set to such a low strin­gency lev­el that all air­craft cur­rent­ly in devel­op­ment or in pro­duc­tion would already comply.

  • Octo­ber 2020

    In Octo­ber 2020, a coali­tion of 12 attor­neys gen­er­al led by Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Xavier Becer­ra sub­mit­ted com­ments in oppo­si­tion to the EPA’s pro­pos­al. The coali­tion empha­sized that the EPA’s fail­ure to even con­sid­er fea­si­ble reduc­tions in green­house gas emis­sions vio­lates the Clean Air Act and is arbi­trary and capri­cious. The attor­neys gen­er­al also point­ed out that their states have made sig­nif­i­cant efforts to address aviation’s cli­mate impacts by reduc­ing and off­set­ting green­house gas emis­sions from air­ports, but are pre­empt­ed under the Clean Air Act from estab­lish­ing their own emis­sions stan­dards for air­craft. States there­fore rely on the EPA to adopt fed­er­al stan­dards in order to pro­tect the health and wel­fare of their res­i­dents and avoid dam­age to their economies. The coali­tion urged the EPA to rescind the pro­pos­al and instead con­sid­er the full range of fea­si­ble options for effec­tive emis­sions con­trol and pro­pose stan­dards that actu­al­ly reduce dan­ger­ous green­house gas­es from aircraft.

  • Jan­u­ary 2021

    In Jan­u­ary 2021, the EPA final­ized its rule to reg­u­late green­house gas emis­sions from air­crafts, ignor­ing the rec­om­men­da­tion of attor­neys gen­er­al to set reg­u­la­tions that would result in actu­al reduc­tions in emissions. 

  • Jan­u­ary 2021

    Lat­er in Jan­u­ary 2021, a coali­tion of attor­neys gen­er­al led by Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra filed a peti­tion for review chal­leng­ing the deci­sion as unlaw­ful and request­ing the rule be remand­ed to the EPA. As of June 2021, the lit­i­ga­tion was in abeyance.