Aviation industry agrees to set carbon limits

In a meeting in Montreal on Monday, countries around the world agreed to curb emissions on one of the world's biggest contributors to climate change.

David Zalubowski/AP/File
As the suns sets behind the mountains, a passenger plane comes in for a landing at Denver International Airport in Denver (Feb. 8, 2016).

Leaders of the global aviation industry, including big names like Boeing and JetBlue, are taking a big step forward to address climate change.

At a meeting of the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal on Monday, members from across the aviation industry representing the United States and 22 other countries agreed to new standards that will significantly reduce global emissions from air travel. The new rules would take effect for all airplanes by 2028, according  to the ICAO.

The standards have been in development for more than five years and include developing more fuel efficient aircraft designs.

“The aircraft standards agreed to [on Monday] are part of a comprehensive approach” to reducing carbon emissions, which utilizes both technological development and the influence of the market, the White House said in a press release.

Air travel is one of the world’s biggest contributors to climate change. Commercial aircraft currently contribute 11 percent of the world’s transportation emissions of carbon dioxide, but that number is expected to nearly triple by 2050. The White House projects that the new standards will reduce carbon emissions by more than 650 million tons between 2020 and 2040, or the equivalent of removing more than 140 million cars from the road for a year.

In a statement regarding the change, Boeing said, "Environmental goals are aligned with our business goals, as greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions are top priorities for our commercial customers. We believe the ICAO standard will have the intended results of ensuring older aircraft are replaced by newer, more efficient aircraft that will further reduce fuel use and carbon emissions."

In the United Kingdom, Boeing is a member of Sustainable Aviation, which seeks to implement target reduction goals for the aviation industry in the UK.

But the rise of cheap oil has had a definite impact on those pressing environmental concerns. With oil falling below $30 a barrel, airlines have slashed ticket prices by as much as 14 to 15 percent since last year, according to NPR. Some budget airlines like Norwegian Air and Lufthansa’s budget subsidiary Eurowings have either introduced or plan to introduce very cheap long-haul flights to Europe and other destinations. Many airlines also have reintroduced snacks in economy class.

However,it could pave the way for environmental progress  in the long run. Airlines profits have reached their highest levels several years, allowing for investments in newer aircraft. Boeing, for example, recently partnered with the University of Cambridge to develop a parallel hybrid aircraft engine. The engine uses a combined electric and gas engine and consumes 30 percent less fuel than a plane that uses a gas-only engine. The plane is the first of its kind that can recharge its batteries while in flight.

In October, the White House introduced the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, highlighting the relationship between sustainability and viable economic growth in the lead-up to the climate talks in Paris last December. JetBlue and aerospace manufacturers GE and United Technologies were among the 81 signees.

JetBlue has committed to increasing flight efficiency, while GE pledged to invest $10 billion in clean energy research. United Technologies committed to increasing efficiency and sustainability across its product line when it signed the pledge.

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