Abating Carbon Emissions in the Aviation Sector: Policy Analysis and Recommendations for the Federal Government
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The top U.S. airlines by passenger volume move a little more than half a billion passengers annually, both domestically and internationally, burning millions of gallons of fuel and releasing millions of tons of the GHG carbon dioxide in the process. After building a case for action, this paper assumes that the United States Federal Government cannot sit idly by and is considering a carbon mitigation strategy for the aviation sector. Using publicly available data from MIT, the paper measured the carbon emission intensity of the major U.S. airlines to determine how efficiently airlines allocate carbon emissions, with the results providing insight into areas for emissions efficiency improvements. After determining that modernizing U.S. airline fleets is the most realistic opportunity to curb emissions, the paper developed a standard policy criterion to determine the best mix of regulatory policies to do so. It found that an emissions trading system, economic safeguards against foreign carriers and financial incentives for innovation can promote fleet modernization, decreasing carbon emissions across all airlines. Combining this modernization with new FAA air traffic management strategies, carbon emissions can be appreciably curbed despite projected growth.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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