Leading aviation organizations throughout Europe have collaboratively released an industry declaration, emphasizing their dedication to taking collaborative actions to advance air travel’s environmental sustainability. This commitment aligns with the decarbonization objectives articulated within the European Union’s Green Deal. The signatories have unequivocally expressed their intent to work closely to pursue these objectives.
The new declaration has garnered support from prominent airline associations, including IATA, A4E (Airlines For Europe), and the European Regions Airline Association, as well as leading aviation entities such as ACI Europe (the airport body) and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO).
Air travel presents significant environmental challenges due to its substantial contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and various forms of pollution. One of the primary environmental concerns revolves around the emissions of potent greenhouse gases, which are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), emanating from aircraft engines. These emissions play a significant role in exacerbating global warming and contributing to climate change.
Aviation emissions in Europe are a growing concern, outpacing the growth of emissions in any other transportation sector. Over the period from 1990 to 2019, these emissions more than doubled, now representing around 4.7% of total EU emissions. Aviation is the second-fastest growing source of emissions in the EU, following agriculture.
What amplifies the impact of aviation emissions is their high-altitude release, making them particularly potent contributors to global warming. Additionally, these emissions introduce pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, and particulate matter into the atmosphere, with detrimental effects on public health, including respiratory issues, heart disease, and cancer.
The aviation groups have made their intention clear as they said in the meeting that they want to “make Europe the most efficient and environmentally friendly sky to fly in the world.”
In a joint statement, the aviation group said, “With European passenger traffic set to recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2024, digital innovation in ATM can improve efficiency and provide the capacity to meet this projected demand while at the same time realizing considerable CO2 savings.”
Andreas Boschen, Executive Director, SESAR 3 JU added: “The new European ATM Master Plan will address the climate change imperative. Building on the success of SESAR, the plan will set the strategic framework for our future efforts in ATM and show how digital innovation will open the trajectory to a digital and green European sky. I am looking for vision and ambition to make the next edition of the Master Plan a powerful tool for ATM transformation that benefits Europe’s citizens and industry.”
Analysis by the SESAR 3 JU, EASA, and EUROCONTROL “suggests that introducing new technologies and procedures into ATM can provide a significant and immediate contribution towards making aviation climate neutral, while work progresses on other high-impact innovations, such as sustainable aviation fuels and new aircraft. For example, it is estimated that already delivered SESAR solutions could result in a 4% reduction in CO2 emissions per flight”. It was further added that the “solutions already implemented through Common Project 1 have contributed 2% in emissions reductions per flight.”
An extensive consultation will now get underway with industry stakeholders, European policymakers, and Member States. The aim is to have the new edition of the Master Plan adopted by the SESAR 3 JU Governing Board at the end of 2024.
The annual conference also paid tribute to the successful closure of the SESAR 2020 programme, with 149 projects having delivered 127 solutions, which are now ready for deployment.