Journal of Air Law and Commerce


Reducing emission levels from transportation is one of the most vital steps in combating climate change, but domestic aircraft were not subject to this kind of regulation until recently. In July 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first carbon emission standards for airplanes. While this regulatory move appears to be progress for protecting the environment, it locked in current emissions levels for years to come. The overwhelming majority of aircraft models are already 6% more efficient than the new standard requires them to be. The rule highlights the tension between industry considerations and environmental justice.

This Comment seeks to analyze the various shortcomings of the new aircraft carbon emission standards. It does so by first examining the preceding legal history of emissions regulation and the specifics of the new rule. It then examines the United States’ obligations to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Clean Air Act requirements, the aviation industry’s own developments, and the level of deference granted to the EPA’s decision. In order to adequately protect the climate and satisfy each of these legal demands, the EPA must reconsider more stringent standards.