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Sustainable Connectivity EP event

On Tuesday 12 November, ERA co-hosted the Sustainable Connectivity session with MEPs Andor Deli of the TRAN Committee and Edina Tóth of the ENVI Committee, at the European Parliament. The session represented an opportunity to promote and confirm the industry’s continued commitment to sustainable air connectivity.

With climate change and global warming headlining the world’s media and political agendas, and an outcry of public opinion and support for change, the air transport sector needs to promote its current and future initiatives to continuously mitigate and reduce its contribution to CO2 emissions. Aviation currently accounts for 2 per cent of carbon emissions worldwide whilst contributing more than 4 per cent of global GDP. The industry has improved its fuel efficiency by 52 per cent and aircraft have become 75 per cent less noisy over the past 30 years. However the decarbonisation of other industries, together with the growth projections for aviation puts additional social pressure on the industry to meet our global environment responsibilities.

The ERA Sustainable Connectivity session provided a platform for European airlines – including Braathens Regional Airlines, Widerøe and Binter together with manufacturer ATR – to promote the work and initiatives being carried out to reduce their environmental footprint. Topics included biofuels, decarbonisation and pioneering electric flight.

Additionally, speakers from the wider aviation industry included: Andrew Kelly, ERA President; Andrew Watt, Head of Environment, Eurocontrol; Kai Bauer, Principal Advisor Environment & Sustainability, EASA; and Marian-Jean Marinescu, MEP, TRAN Committee.

The event was kicked off by Andor Deli and Edina Tóth, who outlined the benefits of air connectivity and its environmental impacts. Aviation is a necessary enabler of connecting people with their families and cultures around Europe, allowing passengers to reach even the most distant and remote regions of the Europe, thus contributing to regional cohesion. It supports, additionally, Europe’s local economies by driving investment and growth in the communities. However, the sector needs to decarbonise in order to continue benefitting European communities.

Four of ERA’s members, Braathens Regional Airlines, Widerøe and Binter together with manufacturer ATR, had the opportunity to promote their work and initiatives that they are currently carrying out to reduce their environmental footprint and make sustainable connectivity a reality.

Braathens, in partnership with ATR carried out the Perfect Flight back in May 2019, the most climate efficient flight landed at Bromma Stockholm Airport. By flying on ATR’s efficient turboprop plane ATR 72-600, using 50 per cent sustainable aviation fuel in the tank and by optimising flight altitude, using a slower approach and flying the straightest flight path, Braathens was able to recue CO2 emissions of the flight by 49 per cent compared to the same flight.

Wideroe is partnering up with Rolls-Royce in order to find a business model that ensures zero-emission flying while maintaining sufficient market size and the solution might arrive as soon as the 2020s with all electric aircraft available for small regional flights and hybrid-electric aircraft for larger regional airlines. 

Binter emphasized its unique operations and the need to fly. While also operating efficient turboprops, has also undertaken weight reductions of the fleet and improved the operations of the flights by redesign the flight sheets and improving the descents to reduce flight durations. Additionally, they have introduced in their ground-handling operations a green fleet of electric vehicles and electric versions of thermal GPUs.

In addition to this, there are also new institutional activities to address the challenges aviation is facing in decarbonisation. To remove the market barriers that would allow the sector to decarbonise, EASA is realigning its activities based on new Regulation 1139/2018 and helping in guiding Horizon Europe and Clean Sky and developing an environmental label to increase the sector’s transparency. Whilst Eurocontrol is focussing on bringing ATM optimisation as they play a big role in operational improvements.

To conclude, there is a basket of measures to address aviation’s climate challenge. Whether it is ATM improvements, introduction of SAF, fleet renewal or regulatory measures, one solution is not enough. Rather the sector needs to approach all solutions in parallel and apply them where deemed best together with a strong support from governments in order to achieve the necessary sustainable connectivity.

Key takeaways:

  • Flying is not a simple binary choice to fly or not fly, it is about sustainable flying.
  • Short-haul flights are often the only way to ensure connectivity and social inclusion.
  • There is no single solution to make flying more sustainable - there are different solutions for different flight segments.
  • Need to adopt a global approach to tackle CO² emissions and develop public-private partnerships.
  • Phase-in transition: fleet replacement and use of biofuels in the short run, technical breakthroughs (i.e. electric aircraft) in the medium/long–term.
  • New energy propulsion (hybrid or electric) will come first through the regional segment.
  • Strengthened environment assessment in PSO routes allocation.
  • Turboprop technology to reconcile territorial cohesion with a lower carbon footprint.
  • The industry needs government support to achieve its sustainable goals by:
    • investing taxes on aviation in promoting more sustainable aviation; and
    • rewarding those who target zero emissions through incentives.