There have been multiple occasions over the last couple of months when conversations have turned to how COVID-19 lockdowns and the subsequent restrictions on flights have meant less pollution in the skies above us and cleaner air. As a result there has been a call for aviation to focus on a green recovery and for rescue packages to come with green strings, such as reduced carbon footprints and frequent flyer levies.

According to Tanja Grobotek, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation’s (CANSO’s) Director Europe Affairs, “The current crisis gives us an opportunity to ‘build back better’ by reducing carbon emissions from flying in the most efficient way.”

So, it’s welcome news that while airports, airlines and passengers are united in their welcome for the gradual return of commercial flights, Europe’s aviation sector is also committed to contributing to the recovery of European economies in line with the Green Deal objectives.

In particular, stakeholders across the industry are calling for EU leaders to introduce specific decarbonisation initiatives in their allocation of future COVID-19 funding.

“Airports – along with our partners in the aviation eco-system – have been brought to their knees by this crisis,” said Olivier Jankovec, Director General of Airports Council International (ACI) Europe. “Our determination to pursue climate action, in line with ACI Europe’s commitment to Net Zero carbon emissions under the airports’ control remains as robust as ever – but our ability to invest has been hit hard. Aviation is one of the sectors where decarbonisation is particularly challenging, so including it in a joined up green recovery makes sense for all,” he continued.

A combination of public and private investment will be essential to allow air transport leaders to speed up work to decarbonise the sector – in line with the EU goal of climate neutrality by 2050. Specific proposals include: boosting the production and uptake of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as well as investments in sustainable airport and heliport infrastructure and continued investment in the European Air Traffic Management (ATM) system.

Stakeholders are also suggesting the implementation of a green incentive scheme for airlines and aircraft operators to replace older aircraft, as well as the need to increase public funding and public co-funding rates for Civil Aviation Research and Innovation (Clean Aviation and SESAR).

With experts predicting that air traffic won’t return to pre-pandemic levels much before 2023, the coming months offer a definite window of opportunity to address the climate risks posed by the aviation industry and ensure appropriate action is taken.

Best wishes,

Chloë Greenbank, Regional Gateway Editor.

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