Climate change is an issue of global significance and governments, industries and individuals must all act to tackle the problem. While the air transport industry does contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, it is but one of the causes. Globally, aviation contributes around two percent of CO2 emissions and continues to work to reduce its environmental impact.
Aviation’s impact on climate change
Like a number of other human activities (such as driving cars and using fossil fuels for electricity generation), aviation has an impact on climate change, mainly through the emissions from aircraft as they fly. While the global impact of aviation remains small, the industry is growing and must join other sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is significant work underway across all parts of the aviation industry to further reduce emissions.
Carbon dioxide emissions are considered the ‘main’ greenhouse gas to have an impact on climate change and aviation accounts for 2 percent of all human-made CO2 emissions. However, there are small amounts of other gasses releases as part of the combustion process (such as nitrogen oxides) and these also have an impact. The best estimate of aviation’s current climate change impact, provided by the United Nation’s IPCC, is around 3 percent of the total contribution by human activities.
There is a concerted effort by all sectors in the aviation industry – airports, airlines, aircraft / engine manufacturers and air navigation services – to work together to make the industry ‘cleaner and greener’. This effort is not new. In the last 40 years for example, aircraft have become 70 percent more fuel efficient (with a 20 percent increase in efficiency in the past 10 years) and these cross-industry efforts continue.
A global strategy
At the 2008 Aviation & Environment Summit, ACI joined with other industry leaders to sign a declaration outlining a cross-industry strategy to deal with aviation’s impact on climate change. The four-pillar approach will see the industry use technological innovation, operational efficiency, infrastructure improvements and economic incentives to commit to a pathway of carbon-neutral growth. ACI has encouraged its airports to aim for carbon neutral operations [link to press release]. The full declaration can be found at enviro.aero/declaration.
ACI is taking part in an aviation industry wide initiative to explain flying’s real impact on climate change and all the initiatives underway in he industry to reduce its impact. A website – www.enviro.aero – has been established to answer questions on this subject. You can also explore some of the pages on this site to understand the efforts that airports are making to reduce their already small impact even further.
What are airports doing?
Airports have consistently practised environmentally-responsible work methods. Many produce environmental reports and there is a range of initiatives occurring at airports across the world to reduce their environmental footprint, such as:
ACI is, through the ACI World Environment Standing Committee and the CAEP sub-committee, pressing ICAO and the entire industry on noise and emissions stringency. ACI provides recommended environmental practices for airports to follow and co-sponsors the bi-annual Aviation and the Environment Summit. Click on some of the links to the left for more information on what airports around the world are doing to reduce their emissions footprint.