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UN agency approves first emissions-reduction standards for aircraft

The UN has announced standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for aircraft. Environmentalists say the agreement won't have much effect in slowing global warming.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN agency that codifies principles for international air navigation, agreed on Monday to the first-ever standards for carbon dioxide emissions for aircraft as part of an effort to slow global warming.

The standards were decided on by a panel of flight experts and must still be approved by the agency's governing council later this year. If passed, they will be applied to all aircraft, big and small, and will go into effect in 2020.

According to the agency, once implemented, the standards will help reduce carbon emissions by around 650 million tons by 2040. According to the White House, this is equivalent to the removal of some 140 million cars from the roads for an entire year.

Environmentalists aren't convinced

Washington officials lobbied heavily for the standards, and following the news of the panel's approval, the White House touted its efforts.

"The US pushed hard for a strong standard and I think we are very pleased with the result," one official told reporters.

Some have been critical of the standards, however, saying they won't have much effect in reducing global warming. For example, environmental groups have said the agency's predicted carbon emissions cuts are grossly exagerrated.

Environmentalists have also complained that the agency is giving aircraft manufacturers too much time to comply with the new rules.

blc/bw (Reuters, AP)

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