European Commissioner for Transport
Two years of COVID-19 pandemic have had a deep impact on air transport, as well as on connectivity and regional development across Europe.
As aviation recovers from this crisis it must also find ways to “build back better” more sustainably. There is today broad consensus that addressing aviation’s environmental footprint is a prerequisite for it to continue growing and fulfilling our current and future mobility needs.
The challenge is huge if we are to transform Europe into the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, which, in turn, requires cutting transport-related greenhouse gas emissions by 90% in the same timeframe. We need to drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions, reduce exposure to harmful noise levels, improve local air quality and address other non-CO2 emissions that contribute to climate change.
To get there, the European Commission presented, at the end of 2019, our European Green Deal – aimed at transforming the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy. When it comes to transport and aviation, this ambition has been translated into a Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, which sets out a basket of measures to support aviation’s sustainable transformation. This includes supporting the development of new aviation technologies, making flying more efficient through the Single European Sky, gradually replacing fossil jet fuel with sustainable alternatives and making sure carbon emissions are cut in a cost-effectiveway through the EU Emissions Trading System, as well as driving forward global action.
Of course, achieving our climate ambitions will only be possible with the involvement and engagement of all stakeholders and the general public. The commitment of the European aviation eco-system to sustainability and net zero carbon emissions by 2050 for all flights within and departing from Europe, as expressed in the DESTINATION 2050 initiative of 2021, therefore provides a promising basis for future efforts.
If we are to help the European aviation sector to meet these challenges, we must also be able to base our actions and gauge our progress against accurate, up-to-date data and scientific evidence. That is why this report matters so much. It presents us with a factual and comprehensive analysis of the air transport sector, its impact on the environment, progress to date, and future challenges – also capturing some of the temporary or longer-lasting impacts of COVID-19.
This evidence is already feeding into meaningful policy developments, such as the recent proposal for a “ReFuelEU” Regulation to kickstart the production and use of sustainable aviation fuels. The European Commission and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) are also working hand in hand, in cooperation with the aviation industry, to develop an environmental label in the aviation sector, so that passengers will be able to find reliable information on the environmental performance of aircraft, airlines and individual flights and compare between different options available on the market.
I am convinced that these initiatives will not only contribute to making aviation more sustainable, but also more resilient, helping us to maintain our European leadership position in this major global industry.