Transport | Policy Brief
The role of airports in the European Green Deal
21 January 2021
AUTHOR: Matthias Finger, Teodora Serafimova, MONTERO-PASCUAL Juan J.
The European Green Deal sets the objective of making Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050: a commitment which places a particular responsibility on the aviation sector. In addition to calling for a reduction of the sector’s climate footprint, the Green Deal stresses the importance of ‘improving air quality near airports by tackling the emissions of pollutants by airplanes and airport operations’. Though important advances have been made in mitigating noise pollution from aircraft, noise levels continue to pose a serious health risk for communities living close to airports and, thus, also need to be further addressed. The Commission’s more recent Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy reiterates the urgency of transitioning to zero-emission airports, whereby ‘the best practices followed by the most sustainable airports must become the new normal and enable more sustainable forms of connectivity’. Against this backdrop, the 14th Florence Air Forum examined the contribution of European airports and the wider aviation ecosystem, through technological and regulatory measures, in supporting the attainment of the European Green Deal and Climate Law objectives. When it comes to technological solutions, measures to boost airports’ energy efficiency, as well as the electrification of aircraft during taxiing, of ground handling, shuttle buses and other vehicles transporting passengers to-, from- and within the airport premises, for instance, are increasingly examined and implemented. In fact, the European airport industry has shown firm commitment to becoming net zero for carbon emissions by no later than 2050. Airports, however, do not operate in isolation, thus, any regulatory and financing measures to improve their environmental performance, will have to take into account the broader aviation ecosystem, including airlines, air traffic management and ground handlers, among others. Besides the roll out of greening measures at their own premises, airports are important interfaces between various operational stakeholders and can thus act as ‘enablers’ for broader aviation sector decarbonisation. To this end, the 14th Florence Air Forum sought to discuss how existing EU legislation (e.g., the Airport Charges Directive, the Slot Regulation, and the Ground Handling Directive), but also public funding opportunities (research funds, Recovery and Resilience Facility) can stimulate the greening of airports.
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