Europe’s airports target carbon-neutrality by 2050, planes not included

Stockholm's Arlanda airport achieved carbon neutral status in 2009. [Photo: Lia Koltyrina / Shutterstock]

Updated with more accurate information about the number of airports involved

More than 500 European airports pledged on Wednesday (26 June) to drastically slash their greenhouse gas output by 2050. However, the target only includes airport infrastructure and not aircraft.

Airport Council International Europe, which represents many of Europe’s airports, said the carbon-neutral strategy aligns the sector with the Paris Agreement by putting climate change at the heart of business decisions.

Outgoing President Michael Kerkloh said that “it’s an absolute must” for all industries and confirmed that 194 of his organisation’s members have undersigned the net-zero emissions goal.

Swedish airport group Swedavia runs three airports that have already achieved the target and seven are due to hit the goal next year.

Eight EU airports among world’s ten worst

Eight of the world’s ten worst airports are located in the EU, according to a new survey released by a leading passenger rights group last week. Only three of the top ten airports are in EU countries.

The number of airports pledging cuts by 2050 increases from the 100 that made a similar promise in 2017, although the deadline for carbon-neutrality then was 2030 and under the current pledge offsetting will be precluded.

But the goals do not include the main emission-creating culprits in the aviation sector: the aircraft themselves. Emissions from airports only make up around 5% of the sector’s total footprint.

Airports will attempt to reduce their carbon footprint by improving the energy efficiency of buildings and using electric vehicles that can run on renewable energy. Stockholm’s express trainlink runs on clean energy, for example.

Kerkloh added that imposing taxes on aviation “would do nothing” to reduce aircraft emissions and instead urged manufacturers to work towards cleaner planes through technological solutions.

Aviation’s footprint is a growing problem and is responsible for 3% of the EU’s total emissions. With the number of flights is predicted to skyrocket over the next two decades, policymakers have been scrambling to find a solution.

At a conference on carbon taxation in The Hague on 21 June, representatives from the Dutch, French and Swedish governments confirmed that they will move forward with aviation taxes and called on the EU to make the issue a priority.

“The Commission should present an aviation package proposal, to include social and environmental issues, and include it in its work programme,” MEP Karima Delli suggested.

Next Commission urged to launch ‘aviation package’

The next European Commission should make curbing aviation emissions a priority in its work programme for the next five years, according to lawmakers at a special summit on Thursday (20 June) dedicated to taxing flights.

The Netherlands has already confirmed that it plans to impose a €7 ticket tax but a more ambitious solution would be to tax fuel, which would be more in keeping with the ‘polluter pays’ model. The Dutch government is looking into the feasibility of it.

Jet fuel taxes are currently prohibited by an international agreement dating back to the 1940s, although a recent Commission study suggested that there is nothing to stop countries from taxing kerosene prior to departure.

A pan-EU levy could generate revenues of €27 billion, according to the EU executive, although chances are slim that member states would unanimously agree to the measure. Taxation is still a jealously-guarded domain of national governments.

There is nothing to stop countries signing up to bilateral or multilateral agreements though and EU tax chief Pierre Moscovici told The Hague conference that the Commission is ready to help countries organise such pacts.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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