Agreement reached by ICAO’s environmental committee on a metric for defining a CO2 standard for new aircraft

Agreement reached by ICAO’s environmental committee on a metric for defining a CO2 standard for new aircraft | CAEP,CO2 standard

(photo: Boeing)

Fri 13 July 2012 – ICAO’s environment committee CAEP has agreed a metric system that will be used to define a global CO2 standard for new commercial aircraft. There are ICAO environmental regulations in place for aircraft noise and NOx emissions but developing a standard for CO2 emissions has proved a challenge for CAEP since being tasked in 2010. However, the agreement by States and observer organisations comprising the CAEP paves the way for adoption at the ICAO Council in late 2013. The CAEP will now move on with work to define certification procedures to support the metric and the standard’s scope of applicability. Agreement on a common metric for measuring the CO2 emissions of new aircraft has been welcomed by the aircraft manufacturers as well as airline associations and non-governmental organisations. However, the metric has attracted criticism from certain quarters.


“The new CO2 metric system agreed by States, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, addresses emissions from a wide variety of aircraft on a fair and transparent basis,” announced Roberto Kobeh González, ICAO Council President, following the agreement at a Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) meeting in St Petersburg. “It includes factors which account for fuselage geometry, maximum take-off weight and fuel burn performance at three different cruise conditions and is a major move forward.”


As well as further work on certification procedures and the scope of the standard, says ICAO, an appropriate regulatory limit for the aircraft CO2 standard will then be analysed, using the ICAO criteria of technical feasibility, environmental benefit, cost-effectiveness and the impacts of interdependencies.


“This metric system is a very important milestone which comes after extensive technical discussions,” said Jane Hupe, ICAO’s Environment Branch Chief. “That ICAO was able to achieve consensus between the States who serve on the CAEP, in addition to the major airlines, aircraft manufacturers, environmental NGOs and other stakeholders who serve as observers to this process, highlights that there is a great deal of motivation in every quarter of our sector to achieve real progress on aviation environmental performance.”


Airbus and Boeing, which contribute their technical expertise to the standard’s process, said the metric agreement was a major milestone in the development of CO2 emissions standard for civil aviation, which aims to drive manufacturers towards producing more CO2 efficient aircraft and engines.


“We welcome the progress ICAO/CAEP are making, because it is of utmost importance to establish the CO2 standard as the benchmark and reference point for measuring efficiency delivered by technology,” said Fabrice Bregier, Airbus President and CEO. “It underscores the importance of ICAO as the international body to lead key issues on aviation globally. This is a clear demonstration of the industry’s commitment in using technology to help the aviation sector meet its ambitious environmental goals.”


Billy Glover, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ Vice President of Environment and Aviation Policy, agrees. “Our industry continues to advocate for global standards for aviation emissions developed through ICAO because the process works – this achievement is proof-positive,” he said.


Dan Elwell, Vice President, Civil Aviation for the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) told GreenAir: “When designing and developing new airframes and engines, manufacturers strive to create the most fuel efficient aircraft possible so our customers can maximise payload and/or range.


“AIA welcomes ICAO/CAEP’s agreement on a CO2 metric system that will be used to define a global CO2 standard. Indeed, such a standard will accurately quantify the environmental benefits brought about by technology, year after year, in reducing aircraft fuel consumption and related CO2 emissions.”


Airlines too welcomed the metric agreement. “This major milestone in developing a CO2 standard for new aircraft demonstrates the commitment of the global community to environmental sustainability and ICAO’s ability to lead progress,” said IATA’s Director General, Tony Tyler. “Establishing a standard for future generations of aircraft will help to ensure that the environmental benefits of the billions of dollars of airline investments in new aircraft are being maximised.”


IATA said the standard would drive continuous improvement in fuel efficiency and was part of a comprehensive approach to managing the 2% of global manmade carbon emissions attributable to aviation.


Nancy Young, Vice President, Environmental Affairs, Airlines for America (A4A), commented: “ICAO is again demonstrating its leadership for setting global aviation industry standards, and we commend the work of the CAEP for reaching this first milestone towards a CO2 standard for new aircraft. US airlines are committed to reducing fuel burn through a number of measures, including acquiring new, fuel-efficient aircraft that will meet global greenhouse gas standards.”


Environmental NGOs have also supported the metric. Tim Johnson, representing the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) in the CAEP process, said: “ICSA contributed to the discussions on appropriate metrics by advocating a metric system based on fuel consumed on an entire flight. While we believe these arguments still have technical validity, ICSA supports the decision to adopt a refined alternative methodology in the interests of making further progress towards the adoption of a final standard. While ICAO has reached a milestone this week, it is only part of the work required to deliver an environmentally effective standard which includes meaningful stringency in which ICSA will also be actively involved.”


Not so enthusiastic about the CAEP decision is Dimitri Simos of UK company Lissys, which created the Piano aircraft analysis software that is used to quantify CO2 emissions in two out of the four greenhouse gas aviation models approved by ICAO. Simos claims ICAO used Piano data as their ‘secondary dataset’ while finalising the metric deliberations.


In a nine-page open letter disseminated before the CAEP agreement, but which Simos says he still stands by, he described the metric as fundamentally flawed, unfit for purpose and a deeply wrong decision. “The makeshift proposal devised by ICAO is an unsafe public placebo that utterly fails in its purported intent. Different aircraft emit CO2 differently in transporting specific payloads over specific ranges. ICAO’s CO2 metric is unable to reflect this fact – it measures nothing real and can offer nothing real.”




ICAO statement

Airbus statement

Boeing statement

Aerospace Industries Association

IATA statement

A4A statement


Dimitri Simos open letter (pdf)




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