EU aviation externalities “cannot be overlooked”

EU aviation’s impact on the environment, climate and people’s health has not been mitigated even by improving technology, more efficient operations, better airports and market-based measures, according to the European Aviation Environmental Report, published jointly by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the European Environment Agency (EEA) and EUROCONTROL

While aviation has produced economic benefits, stimulated innovation and improved connectivity within Europe, the sector’s growth has also increased its negative impacts on climate change, noise and air quality, according to the report.

“Growth for the sake of growth cannot be an objective in itself,” writes Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Transport, in the report’s foreword. “Aviation has externalities that cannot be overlooked. Indeed, as air traffic increases year on year, the same holds true for environmental and health impacts.”

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, says “The report confirms that the current trends and outlooks in aviation are not compatible with protecting the environment, climate and people’s health. Europe must lead the way towards a more sustainable aviation sector at home and abroad. Strong policies and robust implementation can mitigate future impacts of a growing sector as well as foster innovation and the fundamental shift needed in consumer behaviour.”

Key findings of the report:

  • The number of flights (EU28 + EFTA)  increased by 8% between 2014 and 2017, and is expected to grow by 42% from 2017 to 2040 in the most-likely forecast.
  • Technological improvements, fleet renewal and increased operational efficiency have been able to partially counterbalance the impact of recent growth, but there has still been an increase in overall noise and emissions since 2014.
  • In 2016, domestic aviation and international aviation were together accountable for 3.6% of the total EU28 greenhouse gas emissions and for 13.4% of the emissions from transport.
  • The environmental efficiency of aviation continues to improve and, by 2040, further improvements are expected in average fuel burn per passenger kilometre flown (-12 %) and noise energy per flight (-24%).
  • By 2040, CO2 and NOX emissions from aviation are expected to increase by at least 21 % and 16 %, respectively.

China absent from ICAO carbon offsetting plan

The report also discusses the newly proposed market-based measured for stabilising CO2 emissions from international aviation at 2020 levels, Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation’ (CORSIA). According to the report, China is expected to participate in CORSIA from 2027, and can communicate its intention to volunteer to participate in offsetting CO2 emissions from 2021 to 2026. However, China has not yet committed to the scheme: in 2016, China objected to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that “the objective of neutral carbon growth by 2020 is short of scientific justification, fairness and feasibility… The practice of artificially restricting the range of emissions units available for international aviation is most likely to push up the cost of emissions reduction and provoke unfair competition in the international aviation industry.”

As the country is expected to be one of the largest air transport markets in the world by 2035, its absence could limit the impact of CORSIA in reducing aviation CO2.


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