ATC strikes, technical failures and operational shortcomings have generated one million tonnes of avoidable carbon dioxide emissions over the last five years – on top of the additional pollution caused by the lack of progress by the Single European Sky initiative, according to a new industry study.
At the latest annual meeting held by European airline organisation A4E, the chief executives of some of the region’s largest carriers agreed to identify sustainability targets which would help the EU meet its environmental goals. A4E said it would, together with the wider aviation industry, also take the lead in the development of a roadmap in order to define how a combination of measures and appropriate policies could help Europe’s aviation industry fulfill its sustainability commitments.
A4E said that since 2014, EU airlines’ technical and operational measures have saved some 20 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, according to a new study – equivalent to 1.6 million intra-EEA flights, or 100 days of flying.
“At the same time, inefficiencies often leave Europe’s airspace congested, preventing airlines from flying the most
environmentally friendly routes,” it said, citing the study which indicated that ATC strikes, technical failures and related operational inefficiencies have led to one million tonnes of avoidable CO2 emissions in that time.
“Improving Europe’s airspace architecture, e.g. through harmonised and more widespread implementation of Free Route Airspace – allowing airlines to fly their preferred trajectories – and adapting airspace design to traffic flows would lead to at least a 10 per cent decline in CO2, thereby contributing towards making air transport even more sustainable in the future,” it said.
“Simply put, these disruptions and inefficiencies undermine current efforts. They represent roadblocks to EU airlines’ future sustainability targets and must be urgently dealt with. Governments have a shared responsibility to act by allowing new, more efficient operational concepts to take hold. The industry needs more support for our efforts to reduce dependency on fossil fuels,” said Thomas Reynaert, managing director, Airlines for Europe (A4E).
“While we remain committed to the industry’s self-imposed global targets, our members believe EU airlines – and Europe as a whole, can go further to lead the way in developing a roadmap towards sustainable aviation. Aircraft fuel efficiency levels have improved by 2 per cent a year in Europe and this should be recognised. But further significant progress can be made if current research and development initiatives, such as electric and hybrid engine technologies and sustainable alternative fuels, were better funded and if the right political decisions were taken to remove the hurdles in place,” he added.
“With a greater utilisation of sustainable fuels and further fleet modernisation, airlines already have promising solutions to reduce aviation’s climate impact over the next 10-15 years. To fully benefit from these solutions, current airspace inefficiencies must be urgently addressed, for example through greater digitalization of air navigation services.”