Aircraft emissions contribute to global climate change and have an impact on local noise and air quality. The Commission has therefore taken several measures to mitigate the growing impact of aviation on the environment. More information on aviation and climate change.
A directive to include aviation into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) [114 KB] was published in the Official Journal on 13 January 2009. Emissions from all flights arriving at and departing from Community aerodromes should be included in the ETS from 2012.
Emissions trading has the potential to play a role as part of a comprehensive package of measures to address the climate impact of aviation. This package should also include operational and technological measures. Improvements in air traffic management under the Single European Sky and SESAR programmes (see section on air transport) could help increase overall fuel efficiency by up to 12 %. Research into new technologies, including methods for improving the fuel efficiency of aircraft, can further cut emissions due to aviation.
In 2001, ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) endorsed the concept of a "balanced approach" to aircraft noise management. This approach consists of identifying the noise problem at an airport and then analysing the various measures available to reduce noise using four principal elements, namely:
- reduction at source (quieter aircraft)
- land-use planning and management
- noise abatement operational procedures
- aircraft operating restrictions
The balanced approach calls for the reconciliation, as far as possible, of two opposite parameters: on the one hand, noise mitigation measures have to meet local requirements that can vary from one airport to another and, on the other hand, the selected measures have to be universal enough to satisfy the global requirements of airlines and manufacturers who cannot modify their services or products beyond certain limits.
According to the balanced approach, only airports with documented noise problems are entitled to take specific measures. Furthermore, these measures must:
- be the most cost-effective ones
- fall within the four principal elements of the balanced approach
ICAO also urges States and airports to be transparent when considering mitigation measures.
Moreover, the ICAO recommends not to apply operating restrictions as a first resort. The other elements of the balanced approach should be considered first. If operating restrictions are considered, they should:
- be based on the noise performance of the aircraft
- be limited to restrictions of a partial nature wherever possible, rather than the complete withdrawal of operations, and introduced gradually over time, giving operators a reasonable period of advance notice
- take into account the possible consequences for air services without any suitable alternative and consider the special circumstances of operators from developing countries
European legislation on aircraft noise
Directive 2002/30/EC [120 KB] of 26 March 2002 aims at reducing noise pollution from aircraft at airports. The use of aircraft with a better environmental performance can contribute to a more effective use of the available airport capacity and facilitate the development of airport infrastructure in line with market requirements.
Member States' competent authorities may prohibit or restrict the use of aircraft whose compliance with ICAO noise standards is only 'marginal', i.e. aircraft which meet the standards in force by a margin of no more than 5 decibels.
The airport authorities must establish the existence of a noise nuisance by carrying out an impact assessment and prove that all other available measures to reduce noise have been taken.
The objectives of the Directive are to:
- lay down rules for the Community to facilitate the introduction of operating restrictions in a consistent manner at airport level so as to limit or reduce the number of people significantly affected by the harmful effects of noise
- provide a framework which safeguards internal market requirements
- promote the development of airport capacity in harmony with the environment
- facilitate the achievement of specific noise abatement goals at individual airport level
- achieve maximum environmental benefits in the most cost-effective manner
By laying down identical rules for all airports, the Directive ensures compliance with the internal market's regulations as it prevents unfair competition between airports.