Aviation & Environment

The importance of aviation

Air transport moves over 2.2 billion passengers annually

Air transport generates a total of 32 million jobs globally (of which 5.5 million work directly in the aviation industry)

Aviation's global economic impact (direct, indirect and induced) is estimated at US$ 3.560 billion representing 7.5% of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The environmental impact of aviation

Air transport's contribution to climate change represents 2% of human-induced CO2 emissions (and 12% of all transport sources)

Flights produce 628,000,000 tonnes of CO2 yearly

Worldwide, it is estimated that the equivalent of 1300 new international airports will be required by 2050 with a doubling in the commercial aircraft fleet.

The challenge facing aviation is to meet the predicted growth in demand for air travel (increasing 4-5% per annum over the next 20 years) but to do so in a way that ensures that the environment is protected. 

ACARE and the environmental objectives

The aviation industry in Europe has long recognised this challenge and in 2001 the Advisory Council for Aeronautical Research in Europe (ACARE) established the following targets for 2020 (compared to 2000):

  • reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 50% per passenger kilometre
  • reduce NOx emissions by 80%
  • reduce perceived noise by 50%
  • make substantial progress in reducing the environmental impact of the manufacture, maintenance and disposal of aircraft and related products 


ACARE has identified the main contributors to achieving the above targets. The predicted contributions to the 50% CO2 emissions reduction target are:

  • Efficient aircraft: 20-25%
  • Efficient engines: 15-20%
  • Improved air traffic management: 5-10%

Towards 2050

With 2020 now not far off in terms of civil aircraft development cycles (typically 10 - 15 years), ACARE has been evaluating the progress towards the 2020 targets and conducted a consultation process to identify priorities for a new vision for 2050 ('Aeronautics and Air Transport: Beyond Vision 2020 (Towards 2050) Background Document', June 2010).

It is clear that these longer term targets will be at least as demanding as the ACARE 2020 targets and it is widely accepted that to achieve these longer term aims there will need to be a significant step change in the technologies of future aircraft as well as operational changes. 

ACARE now believes that the time is right for a high-level 'Group of Personalities' to come together  to develop a new vision for European Aeronautics and Air Transport. 

Related link

European Commission whitepaper (28/3/2011) - "Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area" <Download the white paper>