Aviation and the Global Atmosphere

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6.4. Regulatory, Economic, and Other Options

Although improvements in aircraft and engine technology and in the efficiency of the air traffic system will bring environmental benefits, these will not fully offset the effects of the increased emissions resulting from the projected growth in aviation. Policy options to reduce emissions further include more stringent aircraft engine emissions regulations, removal of subsidies and incentives that have negative environmental consequences, market-based options such as environmental levies (charges and taxes) and emissions trading, voluntary agreements, research programs, and substitution of aviation by rail and coach. Most of these options would lead to increased airline costs and fares. Some of these approaches have not been fully investigated or tested in aviation and their outcomes are uncertain.

Engine emissions certification is a means for reducing specific emissions. The aviation authorities currently use this approach to regulate emissions for carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, NOx, and smoke. The International Civil Aviation Organization has begun work to assess the need for standards for aircraft emissions at cruise altitude to complement existing LTO standards for NOx and other emissions.

Market-based options, such as environmental levies (charges and taxes) and emissions trading, have the potential to encourage technological innovation and to improve efficiency, and may reduce demand for air travel. Many of these approaches have not been fully investigated or tested in aviation and their outcomes are uncertain.

Environmental levies (charges and taxes) could be a means for reducing growth of aircraft emissions by further stimulating the development and use of more efficient aircraft and by reducing growth in demand for aviation transportation. Studies show that to be environmentally effective, levies would need to be addressed in an international framework.

Another approach that could be considered for mitigating aviation emissions is emissions trading, a market-based approach which enables participants to cooperatively minimize the costs of reducing emissions. Emissions trading has not been tested in aviation though it has been used for sulfur dioxide (SO2) in the United States of America and is possible for ozone-depleting substances in the Montreal Protocol. This approach is one of the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol where it applies to Annex B Parties.

Voluntary agreements are also currently being explored as a means of achieving reductions in emissions from the aviation sector. Such agreements have been used in other sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or to enhance sinks.

Measures that can also be considered are removal of subsidies or incentives which would have negative environmental consequences, and research programs.

Substitution by rail and coach could result in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions per passenger-km. The scope for this reduction is limited to high density, short-haul routes, which could have coach or rail links. Estimates show that up to 10% of the travelers in Europe could be transferred from aircraft to high-speed trains. Further analysis, including trade-offs between a wide range of environmental effects (e.g., noise exposure, local air quality, and global atmospheric effects) is needed to explore the potential of substitution.

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