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Who’s responsible for regulating the environmental impacts from aviation?

Several different international and UK government bodies have a role in the environmental regulation of aviation. Different issues are addressed by different bodies.

  • international standards developed by ICAO
  • legislation from the European Commission
  • national legislation from Parliament and administered by Government departments such as DfT, Defra and DECC or by individual local authorities and regulated by agencies such as the Environment Agency and Natural England
  • the Planning Framework operated by local authorities.


  • Airports have a responsibility for managing the noise impact of aircraft. There are various pieces of legislation that must be adhered to in relation to noise. These are:
  • national laws in relation to how airspace is managed. Additional laws around noise apply to nationally designated airports
  • European directives
  • local planning conditions
  • For more detailed information, see the Noise: legal obligations section.

Climate change

  • Under the Climate Change Act, The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy is responsible for setting carbon budgets for different industries. It has set one for domestic aviation. However, international aviation is excluded from these due to uncertainties over the international approach to reducing emissions from aviation. For detailed information and data on emissions please visit the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory. DECC is advised by the Committee on Climate Change which produces figures on UK aviation CO2 emissions.

Local air quality

  • Defra has overall responsibility for ensuring local air quality meets European and international standards. However, air quality policy and regulation is devolved, with individual strategies for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Much of the domestic legislation originates from European legislation . There is no direct policy specific to aviation, as it is just one of many sources that contribute to poor air quality. If national air quality objectives are not likely to be met in an area, the local authority must declare it an Air Quality Management Area and then take active steps to improve air quality in that area. A comprehensive resource for air quality can be found at UK Air.

Other local impacts

Like any business, airports have to meet legislative standards in relation to water quality, waste and protecting the natural environment. The Environment Agency and Natural England are the two bodies with responsibilities in these areas.

Local authorities of airports

Many decisions on how airports can operate are made at local authority level. Local authorities also have a role in monitoring local air quality.


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