Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 14, 2017

Contact:  Vera Pardee, (858) 717-1448,

Report: U.S. Airlines' Carbon Emissions Jumped by 7 Percent

Dramatic Increase Highlights Need for Federal Climate Rules

SAN FRANCISCO— Aviation fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions increased by 7 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to a report released today by the International Council on Clean Transportation.

The new report shows that the aviation industry could cut fuel use and carbon pollution by more than a quarter by investing in newer, more efficient planes and adopting greater passenger density. These practices are already followed by carriers like Alaska and Frontier. But while industry profits soared nearly sixfold between 2012 and 2016, growing demand increased fuel use and carbon emissions by 10 percent, dwarfing efficiency gains of 3 percent.

“These dramatic findings show that the airline industry’s much-touted efforts to fight greenhouse pollution are still stuck on the tarmac,” said Vera Pardee, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “That’s why we need strong, protective federal climate rules that actually cut airplanes’ rapidly escalating emissions. Our planet can’t wait for the industry to reform itself.”

The Center, Friends of the Earth and other allies, represented by Earthjustice, first petitioned the EPA in 2007 to regulate carbon emissions from aircraft under the federal Clean Air Act. In July 2016 the EPA officially acknowledged that pollution from airplanes disrupts the climate and endangers human welfare, but the agency has failed to follow through with rules to reduce aircraft emissions.

Aviation already accounts for about 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas pollution, and emissions are rising steeply. If commercial aviation were considered a country, it would rank seventh after Germany in terms of carbon emissions. Airplanes could generate 43 metric gigatons of planet-warming pollution through 2050, consuming more than 4 percent of the world’s remaining carbon budget, according to a Center report.

The first international standards for carbon pollution from airplanes were adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization in early 2017. But these standards will reduce emissions from new planes less than business as usual and do not apply to any in-service aircraft.

“The Trump administration is required to protect our planet from aviation emissions that continue to explode, and dramatic pollution reductions are easily within reach based on existing technologies,” Pardee said. “In the meantime passengers can reduce their carbon footprint by flying carriers like Alaska and Frontier.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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