European Aviation Environmental Report 2022: Ramping up sustainability is crucial for sector’s long-term viability

The newly published European Aviation Environmental Report reviews the aviation sector’s environmental performance and progress made since the 2019 edition, and offers recommendations on reducing aviation’s impact on climate change, noise and air quality. Even if the sector has taken steps to address its impact on the environment and climate, projected growth in demand calls further decisive action. Aviation, like all other transport modes, must play its part in delivering a climate-neutral future by 2050. While the pandemic caused the number of flights calling at EU+EFTA airports to drop from 9.3 million in 2019 to 4.12 million and 5.07 million in 2020 and 2021 respectively, long-term trends suggest that the region may record some 12.2 million annual flights by 2050. In this scenario, aircraft CO2 emissions could rise to 188 million tons unless environmental protection measures are further prioritised in the sector. In this context, the report includes recommendations such as incentivising airspace users to fly trajectories with less environmental impact, in line with the Single European Sky, and focusing on in-sector measures such as the uptake of sustainable aviation fuels. Welcoming the report as a key instrument to support evidence-based policy-making, Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “Europe has taken considerable actions since the last edition of this report. This is reflected, for instance, in lower CO2 emissions per passenger-kilometre and reduced noise from aircrafts. But the report also shows there is scope and need to go further – with sustainable aviation fuels showing particular potential, in line with our EU policy approach.” The report summarises current scientific understanding of historic and future scenarios for air traffic and associated noise and emissions, and explores five key impact mitigation areas (technology and design; sustainable aviation fuels; air traffic management operations; and airports and market-based measures). The report is produced by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, with support from the European Environment Agency and Eurocontrol.