Local Air Quality
Responsibly Addressing Local Emissions
Technological advancements, operational measures, infrastructure and air traffic management enhancements can all contribute to reduce aviation’s emissions. Thanks to technological progress, aircraft emissions around airports are generally low. Since the 1960s, levels of carbon monoxide have come down by 50% and unburned hydrocarbons and smoke by around 90%. Research is targeting a further 80% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) by 2020.
Our industry is also making substantial investments in cleaner ground support equipment and vehicles to improve local air quality.
As a result, in Europe for example, only 2% of total PM emissions and 8% of total NOx emissions from all transport modes are related to aviation.
Stricter Emission Certification Standards
NOx, unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and smoke are subject to international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
ICAO has increased the stringency limit for NOx several times - by 20% in 1993 and by around 16% in 1999, compared to 1981 levels. A new standard was endorsed in 2004, applicable to new engines from 2008. It is 12% lower than the previous standard and will provide a 40% reduction compared to the first standard.
Collaborative Efforts with Other Stakeholders
Aircraft are not the only or even the main source of local emissions around airports. Their contribution is relatively small compared to emissions from road traffic and other ground activities. Therefore, all sources must be considered in order to reduce total emissions. Measures should include, for instance, clean and efficient surface access to airports.
Airports can also make a difference by implementing measures such as optimizing the airport design to reduce taxiing times; providing cleaner ground service equipment and vehicles and using energy efficient systems for heating and lighting.
Taxes and Charges
The environmental benefit from taxes and charges is very uncertain. In particular, by taking away funds from airlines, taxes and charges do not incentivize investment in new technology but, on the contrary, weaken the ability of the sector to dedicate resources to newer, cleaner equipment. Moreover, as they seek to lower local emissions through a reduction in demand for air transport services, they undermine aviation’s socio-economic benefits and its key role for trade and tourism.