CO2 emissions from air transport followed the traffic collapse

CO2 emissions from air transport followed the traffic collapse

Violet Field inPlanetJan 5, 2021 2 min read7 views

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced by air transport fell by more than half in 2020 in Europe, following the collapse of air traffic on the continent,

A plane taking off from Malaga airport in Spain. - Martin Dalton // SIPA

Between January and November 2020, CO2 emissions produced by air transport fell by 56.7% when traffic plunged by 54%, Eurocontrol, the European air traffic monitoring body, announced on Monday. The latter fell by 55% over the year as a whole with 5 million flights departing or arriving at a European airport, against 11.1 million in 2019.

The fall in general, more marked in countries such as Croatia (-73.3%) or the Czech Republic (-70.6%), than in the Netherlands (-41.7%) or in Belgium (- 30.6%). In Germany, air traffic emissions fell by 52.4%, in France by 55.5%, in the United Kingdom by 59.4%, and in Italy by 64.4%.

The collapse of long-haul traffic

The slightly more pronounced drop in emissions compared to traffic is explained in particular by an absence of congestion in the European sky since the pandemic, allowing more direct flight paths and fewer holding circuits above airports. It is also due to the collapse of long-haul traffic, which is even more affected than domestic or continental flights. However, these emit the most CO2.

In general, the longer the flight, the more it contributes to emissions, notes Eurocontrol, relying on data from 2019. That year, flights over 1,500 km represented 30% of flights departing from a European country and 75% of CO2 emissions, while flights under 500 km accounted for 24% of traffic and less than 4% of emissions.

Fleet Grounded

With part of their fleet grounded, airlines have also favored the most recent and fuel-efficient aircraft, therefore more profitable and emitting less CO2. At the end of 2020, 4,118 aircraft from various European airlines, or 51% of the fleet, remained grounded, according to Eurocontrol.

Aviation represents between 2 and 3% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is setting up this year the pilot phase of its global compensation mechanism. CO2 emissions (Corsia) in order to control the sector's emissions.