Promoting Cleaner Aircraft


Because fuel is an important contributor to overall airline operating costs, aircraft and engine manufacturers have an incentive to improve the fuel efficiency of their products, thus reducing CO2 emissions. Historically, however, new aircraft efficiency improvements have been outpaced by increases in travel demand, causing emissions to quadruple between 1960 and 2006. Emissions are projected to triple again by mid-century. Recognizing the need to constrain emissions growth, the 2010 ICAO Assembly affirmed a target to achieve an annual 2% average fuel efficiency improvement through 2050 aspirational after 2020.


Beginning in 2009, ICAO started work to establish the world’s first CO2 efficiency standard for new aircraft. In 2013, ICAO finalized a new CO2 certification procedure to evaluate and compare the cruise fuel efficiency of aircraft, and in February 2016, ICAO’s environmental protection committee (CAEP) finalized the first binding CO2 standard for the sector. The level of ambition of the standard is weak and will have minimal – if any – impact on reducing emissions from the sector. However, the benchmarking standard is a starting point and it is welcome that ICAO have already agreed to update its 2010 technology review study that informed the current standard.


Since 2009, ICSA members have participated directly in the ICAO working groups that helped design the standard. ICSA believes that the standard should be updated regularly to take into account the most advanced technologies and aircraft design principles. It is also ICSA’s belief that a future standard should be set at a level that accelerates the development and deployment of new technologies to improve aircraft efficiency.