Tighter EU aircraft NOx standards put forward

Commission proposes 16% stricter limit on nitrogen oxides emissions from aircraft

A draft directive proposed yesterday by the European Commission could see significantly tighter EU standards for emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from aircraft by the turn of the century. The Commission is proposing that new aircraft in EU fleets should meet 16% stricter NOx emissions limits than apply currently from 2000, and that existing aircraft should meet the new limit from 2008.

Although civilian air transport is a relatively small contributor to overall emissions of NOx and other air pollutants globally, traffic is growing rapidly. An EU report published in August said that air transport would double over the next 15 years and forecast that aircraft carbon dioxide emissions could increase five-fold by 2100 and that NOx emissions would increase too (ENDS Daily 26 August).

The Commission described its proposal as a "precautionary measure," designed to "reduce the rate of increase in NOx emissions without incurring significant costs to manufacturers". It said the proposed new emissions limits represented "current best practice," and said that no aero engine manufacturers should be marginalised.

The proposal comes in the wake of the International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) failure to tighten international NOx emission standards. The Commission yesterday regretted that the ICAO had been "unable to establish acceptable" standards internationally and stressed the importance of the EU moving ahead unilaterally. It said that the EU should nevertheless continue to press for an international solution in the ICAO.

Earlier reports from within the Commission that the proposed directive faced tough opposition have not been borne out by yesterday's announcement. Indeed, the formal proposal suggests tightening standards for new aircraft engines two years earlier than previously foreseen (ENDS Daily 4 November).

Opposition to the measure from the European airline industry also appears to have evaporated. A spokesperson for the Association of European Airlines (AEA) told ENDS Daily today that the body did not oppose the draft directive because it was a unilateral measure and because it would not affect the existing fleet.

However, the Brussels-based environmental group Transport and Environment described the proposal as "seriously disappointing". A spokesperson said the proposed tighter emissions standard would have only a marginal effect. The group also complained that the proposal applied only to EU registered fleets. Aircraft that fail the stricter NOx standard will continue to use EU airports after 2008, it predicted, alleging that EU firms will sell non-compliant aircraft to non-EU carriers as 2008 approaches.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111; Association of European Airlines, tel: +32 2 627 0600; Transport and Environment, tel: +32 2 502 9909.

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