The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions seeks to inform the design and implementation of federal policies that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Drawing from its extensive peer-reviewed published works, in-house policy analyses, and tracking of current legislative proposals, the Center provides research, analysis, and recommendations to policymakers in Congress and the Executive Branch. Read More
How significant a source of emissions is air travel?
The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, second only to the power sector, and aircraft comprise a significant and rapidly growing emission source within that sector. In 2013, aircraft accounted for nearly 11 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. transportation sector, making them responsible for about 3 percent of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Commercial air travel accounted for most of the aircraft carbon dioxide emissions, with military and general aviation making up the rest.
From 1990 to 2013, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from domestic commercial flights grew 4 percent. Recent studies estimate that U.S. aircraft emissions will increase substantially in the next 20 years. Moreover, airplanes remain the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions within the U.S. transportation sector that is not yet subject to greenhouse gas regulations.
U.S. aviation is part of the increasingly interconnected global aviation sector, which makes up about 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions but is one of the fastest growing sources. From 1990 to 2010, global aircraft carbon dioxide emissions grew about 40 percent. If global aviation were a country, it would rank as the seventh largest carbon dioxide emitter, and U.S. aircraft emissions are 29 percent of all global aircraft emissions. Absent new policies, global aircraft emissions are projected to triple by 2050.
Figure 1: 2013 U.S. carbon dioxide emission, by sector and transportation source
The transportation sector is responsible for more than one-third of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Aircraft are responsible for nearly 9 percent of U.S. transportation sector carbon dioxide emissions.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990–2013 (Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2015), http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/Downloads/ghgemissions/US-GHG-Inventory-2015-Main-Text.pdf.
What is the status of regulation?
In 2012, the DC District Court ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required under the Clean Air Act to determine whether greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft cause or contribute to air pollution, which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. An endangerment finding would trigger regulation under the Clean Air Act.
On June 10, 2015, EPA issued its proposed endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft under section 231 of the Clean Air Act. The proposed finding builds on the previous 2009 endangerment finding for light-duty vehicles and found greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft engines used in certain types of aircraft are responsible for contributing to climate change, which threatens public health and welfare. Covered aircraft are those subject to international carbon dioxide emission standards, subsonic jet aircraft — ranging from smaller jet aircraft such as the Cessna Citation II to larger jet aircraft such as the Boeing 747 — and subsonic turboprop aircraft — e.g., Bombardier Q400. The proposed endangerment finding will receive public comment before a final endangerment finding may be issued. The final endangerment finding itself would not impose any restrictions on aircraft. It is however a necessary step in determining whether EPA must regulate greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft.
How does EPA action fit with global action?
Unlike stationary sources, such as power plants, and many mobile sources, such as cars, aircraft frequently travel between jurisdictions with different environmental laws and standards. As such, the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) serves as a global forum to develop policies and standards for the global industry, including a comprehensive set of measures to address greenhouse gas emissions. ICAO is developing a market-based system for aircraft to reduce total emissions from the sector, including through the use of offsets. It is also developing technology-based emission standards for covered aircraft, which are expected to be proposed in February 2016 and adopted later in that year.
Traditionally, both the EPA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have worked within the ICAO process to establish international emission standards and related requirements for other pollutants. Under this approach, international emission standards are first adopted by ICAO, and EPA subsequently initiates rulemaking under section 231 of the Clean Air Act to establish domestic standards equivalent to international standards where appropriate. Both EPA and FAA expect to take a similar approach in promulgating future domestic aircraft greenhouse gas standards for covered aircraft.
What are the next steps?
EPA issued an advanced noticed of proposed rulemaking at the same time as the proposed endangerment finding. The notice solicits comments on a variety of issues related to setting an international carbon dioxide standard for aircraft, including whether such standards should apply to in-production aircraft or new aircraft type designs, the appropriate effective date for a potential international carbon dioxide standard, as well as the appropriate stringency level. However, it does not impose any standards or regulatory requirements at this time.
EPA’s endangerment finding and advanced notice of proposed rulemaking lay the groundwork for U.S. adoption of international emission standards. Once ICAO adopts emission standards for covered aircraft in 2016, EPA is expected to begin rulemaking under section 231 of the Clean Air Act to establish domestic aircraft engine emission standards for covered aircraft that are of at least equivalent stringency as the international emission standards.
The Earth is undoubtedly warming. What’s the cause, what are the impacts, and what can we do about it?
Below is a list of resources to learn more about the impacts of climate change, what individuals can do to help, and which policies can make a big difference
What are the Impacts of Climate Change?
The Earth is warming and will continue to do so if we keep releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This warming brings an increased risk of more frequent and intense heat waves, higher sea levels, and more severe droughts, wildfires, and downpours. To learn more:
What can you do to help?
C2ES works to help individuals learn how they can save energy at work, school, and home. Learn some of the steps you can take to make an impact:
What would make a huge difference?
Sensible policies can spur demand for clean energy and technologies and reduce carbon emissions cost-effectively. Learn about some of the options:
Debate over the proposed Clean Power Plan has been, not surprisingly, contentious and, unfortunately, partisan. On one end, some Republicans are promoting a just-say-no approach, discouraging states from developing plans to cut carbon emissions from their power plants, as the proposed rule would require. On the other end, some Democrats are refusing to acknowledge the genuine challenges the proposal presents to states and the power sector.
With all the partisan rancor surrounding the plan, it was refreshing to see a bipartisan group of senators take a different approach. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Tom Carper (D-DE) came together last week to offer constructive comments on the proposal in a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy.
Key Insights from a Solutions Forum on
By Jason Ye
Energy efficiency is a critical component of the proposed Clean Power Plan. It offers states a least-cost pathway for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector. A C2ES Solutions Forum held May 18, 2015, brought together city, state, and business leaders to explore how intelligent efficiency can drive reduced energy usage and emissions under the rule.
Among the questions C2ES discussed at this event:
- What is intelligent efficiency and how can it reduce costs and emissions?
- Can intelligent efficiency also help with reliability?
- What role will energy efficiency play in the Clean Power Plan?
- What are some cities, states and businesses doing right?
- What role can cities, states, and businesses play together in using energy efficiency to implement the Clean Power Plan?
- What would help cities and states use energy efficiency under the Clean Power Plan?
- Why would a utility want to sell less of its product – electricity?
C2ES will continue the conversation with cities, states, and businesses to share insights and innovative ideas that will help us get to a clean energy future. Our third Solutions Forum on June 25 will explore innovative ways to finance clean energy technology and infrastructure.
For more information about the C2ES Solutions Forum, see: http://www.c2es.org/initiatives/solutions-forum
States could go a long way toward meeting targets for reduced power plant emissions under the Clean Power Plan just by encouraging energy efficiency. One way to do that is to deploy more “intelligent efficiency” solutions at home. Interconnected systems and smart devices could not only help reduce energy use and climate-altering emissions, but also empower consumers to make money-saving choices.
More than 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases comes from the residential sector – where we use about 1.4 trillion kWh of electricity annually to power our heating and cooling systems, appliances and electronics. Although we pay for it all, a lot of that electricity is wasted. Tried-and-true solutions like weatherization and more efficient light bulbs will continue to be common sense solutions. But increasingly, homeowners, innovators, and policy makers are looking to leverage the average home’s 25 devices to reduce that waste.
Image courtesy U.S. Department of Energy
A homeowner installs a smart thermostat. Devices like this could be controlled though web platforms, along with water heaters, washing machines and LED bulbs with advanced controls.
Energy efficiency can be an attractive way for states to meet the plan’s targets because, in addition to being relatively inexpensive to deploy on its own, energy efficiency reduces the need to build new, costly power plants in the future.
C2ES examined six economic modeling studies that project the likely impacts of the Clean Power Plan on the U.S. power mix and electricity prices. Despite starting with different assumptions, all of the studies project that energy efficiency will be the most used and least-cost option for states to implement the plan, and that overall electricity consumption will decline as a result.
The majority of the studies project either cost savings to power users under the Clean Power Plan or increases of less than $10 billion a year. That translates to less than $87 a year per household, or about 25 cents a day.
|C2ES President Bob Perciasepe moderates a Solutions Forum panel with (l to r): Steve Harper, Global Director, Environment and Energy Policy, Intel Corporation; Alyssa Caddle, Principle Program Manager, Office of Sustainability, EMC; and Lars Kvale, Head of Business Development, APX Environmental Markets.|
Our second Solutions Forum focused on how to spur more energy efficiency, especially through “intelligent efficiency” — a systems-based approach to energy management enabled through networked devices and sensors.
States have an array of policy options to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. In the first of a three-part clean power series, C2ES brings together state leaders and industry experts to explore market-based approaches to efficiently and effectively implementing EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan.
April 15, 2015
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Capitol View Conference Center
101 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(Doors open at 8:30 a.m.)
Watch video of Bob Perciasepe and state officials.
Watch video of business leaders' discussion.
Director, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
Director, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Director of Environmental Programs, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment
Vice President, Environmental Management and Resources, DTE Energy
Government Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility, Holcim (US) Inc.
Director of Energy and Environmental Policy, Duke Energy
Senior Manager, Federal Government Affairs, Exelon
Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Professor, Stanford Law School
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions