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Sustainable aviation: the new challenge for European airports

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Against a backdrop of economic crisis and global warming, the aviation sector is doing everything it can to move towards more sustainable aviation. AEROAFFAIRES tells you about this new challenge and the measures taken by European airports.


What is sustainable aviation?


The transport sector in general accounts for almost 31% of global greenhouse gas emissions in France, according to the government website. Indeed, most of the modes of transport we use today (buses, cars, trucks, planes etc) are almost all powered by fossil fuels.

Air transport accounts for 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to France info. Like land transport, it must continue to innovate in order to build a sustainable future and not exceed this percentage, which is already considered too high by many and is at the heart of controversy. The objective is even to reach 0% carbon emissions by 2050.

Thus, several projects are emerging to support airports and air operators in limiting the environmental impact of air traffic on the planet.


Projects for sustainable aviation set up


During the “Connecting Europe Days”, which took place from 28 to 30 June 2022 in Lyon, various industrial and political players, as well as the European Commission, discussed the challenges of transport and mobility.

Faced with the TEN-E regulation which aims to continue to ensure market integration and security of supply for a low-carbon future and the development of energy infrastructure in the EU, the Green Pact for Europe which represents a set of initiatives proposed by the European Commission with the aim of making Europe carbon neutral by 2050 and the strategy for sustainable and intelligent mobility, several round tables and challenges were set up for the transport sector.


Airlines and sustainable flights

On 28 June 2022 as part of the Connecting Europe Days, for example, a Lyon-Barcelona flight by Vueling emitted 40% less CO2 emissions than a conventional flight. This was made possible by the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel made from oils recovered by Total Energies and the new generation Airbus A320NEO. The use of this type of fuel is one of the main alternatives for decarbonising aviation in the coming years. It is important to know that the cost of biofuels is much higher than that of conventional paraffin, which is a barrier for commercial airlines. Moreover, biofuels are not yet produced in sufficient quantities to cover all aviation needs.


Improved routes to reduce carbon emissions

Optimising flights is still a relatively rare way of decarbonising the aviation sector. However, optimising the trajectory of aircraft could considerably reduce CO2 emissions. On 21 September 2021, for example, an AirFrance Airbus A320 between Paris and Toulouse managed to reduce its emissions by almost 5% on this flight. The project is called “ALBATROSS” and is a research project on Single European Sky air traffic control conducted by Airbus and the DSNA (Direction des services de la Navigation Aérienne). It aims to prove, through a series of demonstration flights in Europe, the reliability of implementing more energy-efficient flights by combining technical and operational research and development innovations.


Carbon neutral transport hubs

44 airports worldwide, including 35 in Europe, are carbon neutral, i.e. they generate very few emissions and offset them through projects. In airports, emissions are numerous, from electricity for heating or air conditioning, lighting, machinery and equipment, passenger traffic, aircraft movements etc.

The Aiport Carbon Accreditation is a global carbon management programme for airports that independently assesses and recognises the efforts of airports in managing their environmental impact and CO2 emissions. The actions to be taken to contribute to these efforts require investment, but this is quickly recouped by the gains in energy efficiency. In France, for example, Nice-Côte d’Azur and Lyon-Saint-Exupéry airports are accredited as carbon neutral. To achieve this, Nice airport uses hydroelectric power produced in France and 100% electric shuttles. The secret is to produce its own renewable energy. While Lyon Saint-Exupéry is the first HQE certified terminal in France. HQE stands for High Environmental Quality and is a certification that encourages a voluntary approach to the construction, renovation and operation of buildings.

Other French airports are also mobilised, such as Bordeaux Mérignac airport. Last June, three aircraft, including a Falcon 900, took off using 30% sustainable aviation fuels, also produced by Total Energies.

Even more recently, on 21 June 2022, the first flight with 100% sustainable fuel on a commercial aircraft took place, according to AeroBuzz.

While the airline industry is banking on technological advances such as electric and hydrogen powered aircraft, alternatives to conventional paraffin, trajectory optimisations and carbon offsetting until 2030 are unavoidable. There is still a lot of work to be done by the airline industry and the challenge today is to achieve the 0% emissions target in 2050 and to face the biofuel revolution. World and European airports also have their roles to play in integrating carbon neutral infrastructures.


AEROAFFAIRES and its action in favour of the environment


At AEROAFFAIRES, we care about the environment and have therefore formed partnerships and created biodiversity projects. Our SkyCo2 programme offsets the carbon emissions of all our flights by supporting a deforestation project. Also, with EcoTree, we are committed to supporting and funding a pollination and biodiversity rehabilitation project in France, within the Châtelain forest in the Pays de la Loire. Indeed, as a customer you become a major actor in this project! How do you do this? We donate part of our profits to this pollination project or a free contribution when you book your flight will be used to install new hives.

Travelling with AEROAFFAIRES means contributing directly to our pollination project.

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