The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is looking to set new emissions standards for aircraft in a bid to curtail carbon dioxide (CO2) production.

EASA has proposed that newly designed aircraft types should meet a CO2 standard from Jan. 1, 2020, with types already in production at that date being held to a separate standard from Jan. 1, 2023.

The aim of the proposal is to incentivize the incorporation of the latest fuel efficiency technology into airplane designs, and to address the predicted increase in CO2 emissions. Although aircraft are becoming steadily “greener” and emitting less pollution, this improvement is being overtaken by the growing size of the world’s airliner fleet.

EASA has submitted an “Opinion” to the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, that also includes a new Particulate Matter emissions standard for aircraft engines from the Jan. 1, 2020. Particulates are tiny fragments of burned carbon from fuels that can lodge in the lungs and cause health problems.

The organization argues that these new environmental standards will contribute both to improved local air quality and to the overall climate change objectives of the Paris Agreement, which is being discussed at the UN climate change conference in Bonn this month, “Ensuring that aviation contributes to the goal of mitigating climate change is important for EASA who led the work on the airplane CO2 standard,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said. 

The number of European flights, and associated CO2 emissions, has increased by 80% between 1990 and 2014, and is predicted to continue to grow.

The Opinion implements the results on airplane CO2 standards from the Committee on Aviation Environment Protection meeting of the ICAO, which was held in Montreal, Canada, in February 2016.

Alan Dron