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Mobility and Transport
News article22 September 2016Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport4 min read

European Aviation: First environmental report points at sustainability challenge


European Aviation: First environmental report points at sustainability challenge

The European Commission has published the first European Aviation Environmental Report, the result of close collaboration between the EC, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the European Environment Agency (EEA) and EUROCONTROL. The main objective is to provide a regular overview of the environmental performances of the sector in order to plan suitable policy making measures. The report includes key performance indicators on noise, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Among the findings, forecast scenarios for the next 20 years show that with the expected increase in traffic the environmental sustainability of the sector will be increasingly challenged.

EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said "Aviation brings significant economic and social benefits to Europe, but also has an impact on the environment. The Aviation Strategy we adopted in December recognises that the future competitiveness of air transport goes hand in hand with its sustainability. Today's report will be instrumental to frame future policy. It is also a valuable contribution to the ongoing international discussions on measures to reduce emissions from aviation. In 2016, the EU will reach out to its partners to take global and ambitious steps."

Luc Tytgat, EASA's Director for Strategy and Safety Management said: "This first edition of the European Aviation Environmental Report sets the scene for Europe’s ambition to make aviation more sustainable. As part of the revision of its responsibilities, the European Aviation Safety Agency will update this report every 3 years and intends to reinforce its role in in the field of environment in order to promote the highest standards for environmental protection in aviation."

Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of EEA, said: "It is clear that Europe’s aviation sector has an increasing impact on our health and environment. While aviation plays an important economic and social role, its increasing popularity will lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and noise. These are key challenges Europe’s aviation experts and policy makers need to address to create a more sustainable sector."

Frank Brenner, Director General of EUROCONTROL, said: "One of the key aspects of this Report is that all the different actions that are being taken in aviation are viewed from the environmental perspective so that awareness of aviation actions in environmental matters increases. As a result, citizens, politicians, policy makers, regulators and the industry now have a first overall picture of how European aviation is performing environmentally. We hope that this will be one of many such reports in the future, and we will be delighted to work with our partners on even more comprehensive forthcoming editions."

Several indicators about the environmental impact of aviation were developed specifically for this report, which also highlights on-going initiatives by the industry and the EU in improving aviation’s environmental performance through the SES, SESAR and Clean Sky initiatives. The report is divided into seven main sections, each with specific findings and indicators. In the following a quick overview:

Overview of the Aviation Sector

This section provides several forecast scenarios of environmental performance out to 2035. It is clear that the environmental impacts will continue to be a challenge for the sector despite expected improvement in technology/design and operational efficiency.

Technology & Design

This section provides information on the levels of improvements on noise and emissions through improved technology/design and forecasts for the next decades. It also provides insight into new designs, such as the Open Rotor, and their environmental performance.

Sustainable Alternative Fuels

This section focuses on the role of alternative fuels, such as biofuels, in reducing GHG emissions in the coming decades.

Air Traffic Management & Operations

This section highlights the importance of a good air traffic management, and the need to balance safety, environment, efficiency and capacity. In order to keep up with the increasing demand, Europe will need to invest heavily in modernising the air traffic management system through SESAR and the achievement of the Single European Sky.


Airports have an important role to play in reducing CO2 emissions, for example through carbon neutrality. 92 European airports are currently participating in the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, and 20 of these airports are carbon neutral. By 2035, in absence of new efforts, at least 20 major European airports will face traffic congestions, impacting significantly the environment.

Market-Based Measures

Market based measures are needed to meet aviation’s emissions reduction targets as technological and operational improvements alone are not considered sufficient. This section tackles the impact of the European Union Emission Trading System for intra-EU flights, and of noise and emissions charging schemes in place since the 1990s.

Adapting Aviation to a Changing Climate

This section deals with the need for cost-effective and pre-emptive actions to mitigate the impact of climate change on aviation, such as disruptive weather patterns and sea-level rise.

The European Aviation Environmental Report: High Resolution - Low Resolution


Publication date
22 September 2016
Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport