Civil aviation is regarded as the backbone of the Indian transport industry. The use of air transport has facilitated trade and commerce because of its merits of moving goods and individuals in a secure and less time-consuming manner. The industry has witnessed dramatic growth in the past few decades and is expected to continue its positive growth in the coming years.

The Indian domestic aviation market is the fastest-growing domestic market in the global market at present.[i] The industry is slated to overtake its counterparts in countries such as Germany, Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom in the coming decade. In the same period, India is expected to take the third position (behind China and the United States) in the air passenger market; a big jump from its present position of seventh position in the air passenger market.[ii]

Green Aviation Policy, 2019

The Ministry of Civil Aviation in India aims to achieve the sustainable and inclusive growth of the aviation industry in the country and remedy the ecological concerns posed by the industry. It is in this regard that the Indian Government has proposed a Green Aviation Policy to create a regulatory framework to remedy the environmental issues created by the civil aviation industry by identifying key policy areas that require guiding principles and regulations.

Aim and objective

The Green Aviation Policy has been formulated with a vision to '[t]o enable, promote and strengthen all inclusive, green and sustainable growth of air transportation in India'.[iii] Its mission states that it seeks to 'provide safe and sustainable air travel to various parts of India and the world by minimizing the adverse environmental impacts of civil aviation activities'.[iv]

The policy will reiterate India's commitment to the following international legislative and regulatory frameworks:

  • International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) Vision, Mission and ambitious goals towards environmental protection;
  • United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030; and
  • India's Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – Paris Agreement Ministry of Civil Aviation's objective to achieve Sustainable Aviation as outlined in the National Civil Aviation Policy 2016.

The Green Aviation Policy aims to formulate policies with respect to environmental concerns pertaining to the environmental management system, airport master planning, green infrastructure programme, noise management, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, local air quality, energy and resource conservation, and solar and other renewable energy.

Indian aviation and emission

The Green Aviation Policy is crucial for the civil aviation industry, especially at a time when the sector is rapidly growing and is poised to take over as the third-largest air passenger market by the end of 2029.[v] The policy is a major step taken by the Indian Government to reduce the pollutant contributions by this industry. The Indian civil aviation industry contributes about one per cent of total carbon dioxide (Co2) emissions, this being considerably less than the global average. With India being the ninth-largest aviation market with more than 17 international airports, 80 domestic airports, 14 scheduled airlines, 120 non-scheduled airlines, and 122 million domestic and 47 million international passengers, there is a huge responsibility on India to draw up and implement significant regulations to keep Co2 emissions in check.[vi]

This policy will be helpful in terms of closely regulating the industry and making sure that there is a utilisation of advanced, less polluting and energy-efficient aircraft. The policy places a responsibility on the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to assess and study emissions, and evaluate their contribution to local air quality.

Effect of the policy on the aviation industry in India

The Green Aviation Policy will establish a simpler regulatory framework to accelerate the rate of project clearances for civil aviation projects, with due emphasis on environmental concerns. As part of this pro-environment policy, the DGCA will coordinate with other government bodies to make bio-jet fuels more economical. In addition, the DGCA will evaluate and study emissions from the industry, estimate the contribution of the industry to air pollution levels and oversee proper compliance as per the regulatory framework.

Another benefit of this policy is that it will provide for a faster process for obtaining clearance for aviation projects in India, such as the development of new airports and expansion of existing airports. The policy will also establish a timeline for consultation with central and state governments, the environment ministry, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), and DGCA to speed up the time frame for the creation of development activities in the aviation industry, with due regard to environmental concerns.

However, there are a few concerns regarding the Green Aviation Policy that cannot be overlooked. This policy would require the industry to implement significant capital investment in order to comply with most of the regulations. Airlines will be required to invest heavily in energy and fuel-efficient engines, airline design and other similar heavy equipment. A significant investment pressure on research and development (R&D) at the present time will severely impact the already troubled industry, which is riddled with insolvency, rising fuel prices, severe competition and reduction of profitability.

The policy, although aimed at easing the clearance process, has only resulted in adding more technical compliance with regard to environmental compliance.

In addition, the policy is orientated towards the maximum utilisation of biofuels and other alternative renewable energies. However, an important point to be noted is that such fuels are not available in commercial quantities yet. The supply chain for such fuels has not yet evolved to replace conventional energy sources. Thus, biofuels do not provide a concrete approach to reducing Co2 emissions, and as they are not viable for commercial use, they will lead to a huge financial strain on airlines.


The Green Aviation Policy is a significant step taken by the Indian Government to keep emissions by the domestic aviation industry in check. India will be seen as a role model in the fight against climate change as no other country has a dedicated Green Aviation Policy to tackle emissions by the airline industry. Most developed countries either mention green initiatives in their civil aviation policy in an insignificant manner or are silent about it.

India's Green Aviation Policy is not perfect; it will need some tweaking to reach its desired outcome. The Indian Government must constantly review the clearance system to simplify it for the industry. Unnecessary approvals from multiple boards must be removed. Airline companies must be given some tax incentives, at least for the time being, for the adoption of expensive energy-efficient equipment and aircraft. Otherwise, there will be a huge monetary pressure on the industry to invest heavily in R&D and utilise environmentally friendly measures.

The Indian Government must take the necessary steps to ensure the commercial availability of biofuels and other renewable energies for adoption. The Indian Government must promote initiatives for research into biofuels by establishing research centres.

With the adoption of these recommendations, it will be a giant step by India towards sustainable growth, and India will be regarded as a pioneer in reducing global Co2 emissions.

1 White Paper on National Green Aviation Policy on National Green Aviation Policy.pdf accessed 17 July 2019.

2 IATA, India's Air Transport Sector: the Future is Bright... But Not Without its Challenges accessed 17 July 2019.

3 See n 1 above.

4 Ibid.

5 IATA, India's Air Transport Sector: the Future is Bright... But Not Without its Challenges

6 International Civil Aviation Organization, Working Paper: Environmental Protection International Aviation and Climate Change – Policy, Standardization and Implementation Support accessed 17 July 2019.

This article was originally published by the International Bar Association's Aviation Law Committee on 11 September 2019.

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