Sustainable Aviation: Are the US and EU an Ocean Apart?

Leaders in Washington D.C., Brussels, and national capitals across Europe, are seeking to tie the economic recovery of air travel in a post-COVID world to more sustainable air travel and a greener, more resilient growth strategy. In Europe, the European Green Deal, introduced by the European Commission, has set a new standard for environmental and decarbonization policy, and some policymakers in Washington D.C. are looking to that proposal as a framework for the U.S.’s own sustainability strategy.


With President Biden in the White House and a slim Democratic majority in Congress, there are renewed calls for sustainability efforts. However, while U.S. policymakers are playing catch up with their E.U. counterparts, the private sector and investors alike are prioritizing Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) efforts, which are largely intertwined with a shift towards sustainable travel.


As some U.S. lawmakers have proposed their own version of a “Green New Deal,” we can already see the effects of the “Brussels Effect,” whereby jurisdictions beyond the E.U.’s borders follow the bloc’s regulatory lead, on the aviation sector. While the two sides often utilize policy proposals from one another, there are several differences between how the E.U. and U.S. are planning their future. Below we outline some of the key similarities and differences between how both world and market powers are leading the way to establish a greener future for aviation.

Authors: Susan Donofrio, Carlos Ochoa Alonso, Eli Serota, Cosimo Mati, Ted Wolf from our Washington DC and Brussels offices

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