Introduction

Welcome to the second European Aviation Environmental Report! The core aim of the report is to provide an objective, clear and accurate source of information on the environmental performance of the aviation sector at the European level every three years.

In doing so, it also supports performance-based regulation focusing on measureable outcomes; informs strategic discussions on prioritisation of future work and resources (policy, legislative, operational, research); and facilitates effective coordination of this comprehensive approach across the different initiatives [1].

While Europe’s aviation sector brings significant economic and social benefits, its activities contribute to climate change, noise and local air quality impacts, and consequently affect the health and quality of life of European citizens [2] . These impacts are currently forecast to increase. Therefore the ability of the European aviation sector to grow is directly linked to how effectively it responds to the major environmental challenges ahead.

Innovative, smart and environmentally sustainable solutions to these challenges provide an economic opportunity for the European aviation sector to increase its competitiveness in a global market – in this respect ‘green is gold’. In order to seize this opportunity and overcome the challenges, Europe employs a comprehensive set of measures that come together to support an overarching strategy. Their current status has been summarised within the various chapters of this report.

Member State actions on climate change and noise

Climate change
In 2010, EU and EFTA States agreed to work through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to achieve a global annual average fuel efficiency improvement of 2%, and to cap the global net carbon emissions of international aviation at 2020 levels. During 2012, Member States submitted Action Plans to the ICAO for the first time, outlining their respective policies and actions to limit or reduce the impact of aviation on the global climate. Updated and extended State action plans were subsequently provided in 2015 and 2018.

Noise
The EU Environmental Noise Directive [6] requires noise action plans to be drawn up by Member States addressing the main sources of noise, including aviation, with the aim of reducing the impact of noise upon populations. The first action plans were developed in 2008 and thereafter again in 2013 and 2018. Member States have identified a range of specific measures in their action plans to address noise from aviation-related sources. These include operational measures which reduce noise from aircraft operations (e.g. optimised flight procedures, airport night time flight restrictions, charges for noisier aircraft), and measures focused on reducing noise at the receiver (e.g. sound insulation of houses). Out of the 85 major airports in the EU (airports with more than 50,000 movements in 2011), approximately two thirds had adopted an action plan at the end of 2018.

 

European policy on noise

The European Union has a target in the 7th Environment Action Programme to significantly decrease noise pollution, moving closer to World Health Organization (WHO) recommended levels [3]. The Environmental Noise Directive (END) and Balanced Approach Regulation [4], [5], [6], [7], [8] are the overarching European Union (EU) legislative instruments under which environmental noise is monitored, communicated to the public and actions are taken. Member States are applying common criteria for noise mapping as well as developing and implementing local policies and action plans to reduce noise exposure in large cities and in the vicinity of major transport infrastructure.

European policy on emissions
Climate change. The EU plays a leading role in international efforts to limit climate change, and increased its climate finance contributions to €20.2 billion in 2016. This is backed up by a legally binding commitment and legal framework at EU level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase the use of renewable energy and improve energy efficiency [9], [10], [11], [12]. These ‘climate and energy’ targets for 2020, which the EU is on track to meet, and 2030 are summarised below:

2020
- 20% cut in greenhouse gas emission (from 1990 levels)
- 20% of EU energy from renewables
- 20% improvement in energy efficiency

2030
- At least 40% cut in greenhouse gas emission (from 1990 levels)
- 32% of EU energy from renewables, with an upwards revision clause by 2023
- 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency, with an upwards revision clause by 2023
The EU has also agreed on a ‘2050 low carbon economy’ roadmap that suggests the following targets:
- 60% cut in greenhouse gas emission by 2040 (from 1990 levels)
- 80% cut in greenhouse gas emission by 2050 (from 1990 levels), including a 60% reduction in transport emissions.

At the request of the European Council and the European Parliament, the European Commission presented its vision for long-term EU greenhouse gas emissions reductions in accordance with the Paris Agreement in November 2018, showing that decarbonisation is possible by 2050, including aviation.3 The goal agreed under the Paris Agreement is to limit the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees. While this covers all man-made emissions, including aviation, measures to reduce these emissions are covered by the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement as well as global measures developed through the relevant international organizations, such as ICAO.

From an aviation perspective, the EU has invested approximately €5 billion over the last 10 years to support these commitments through various programmes (e.g. Clean Sky, SESAR, Life, Horizon 2020, Connecting Europe Facility) and a basket of measures (e.g. EU ETS, CORSIA, aeroplane CO2 certification standard) that are summarised in the chapters of this report.

Air pollution. EU air pollution legislation follows a twin-track approach of implementing both local air quality standards [13], [14] and source-based mitigation controls (e.g. engine emissions and fuel quality standards). Binding national limits for emissions of the most important pollutants have also been established in the EU, but not all aviation activities are included [15].

 


3A Clean Planet for all: A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy.