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Europe hails small victories in the green campaign

21 February 2019
Austro Control developed and implemented navigation procedures to reduce noise and emissions at Salzburg Airport (pictured). Source: Getty Images

As flight volumes and passenger numbers continue their upward trajectory, it is becoming even harder to make a discernible difference in reducing the environmental impact of aviation

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), in co-operation with the European Environment Agency and Eurocontrol, issued the second European Aviation Environmental Report (EAER) on January 24. It provided an updated assessment of the environmental performance of the aviation sector since the first report in 2016.

The continued growth of the sector has produced economic benefits and connectivity within Europe, and is stimulating investment in novel technology. However, it is recognised that the climate change, noise, and air quality effects of aviation are increasing.

Significant resources are being invested at EU and member state level, as well as by industry, to address this environmental challenge. Although the EAER notes improvements in terms of technology, operations, airports, and market-based measures, the report says their combined effect has not kept pace with the recent strong growth in the demand for air travel, thereby leading to an overall increase in the environmental impact of aviation.

Demand dampens green success

The number of flights in Europe increased by 8% between 2014 and 2017, and the forecast is for a 42% increase between 2017 and 2040. The EAER states that overall environmental impacts from aviation have increased by 10% for CO 2 , 12% for NO X, and 14% for noise since 2014. In the 2017–40 timeframe, aircraft CO 2 emissions are predicted to increase by 21% and NO X emissions by 16%. The number of airports that handle more than 50,000 annual aircraft movements is expected to increase from 82 in 2017 to 110 in 2040, meaning that aviation noise may affect new populations in the future.

Long-term exposure to aircraft noise is linked with numerous health effects, including ischaemic heart disease, sleep disturbance, annoyance, and cognitive impairment.

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