When we gaze at planes flying by, how many of us actually think about the emissions they’re releasing in the atmosphere? It’s a significant amount, though it’s increasingly getting better. Indeed, the CO2 battle is waged in the sky, too, starting with the airplanes taking off from the Fiumicino and Ciampino airports. The two Rome airports are the first in Europe to achieve Airport Carbon 4+ accreditation by ACI Europe, a recognition that attests to the strong commitment towards sustainability and the fight against climate change. Marco Troncone, CEO of ADR (Aeroporti di Roma), states that “We intend bringing CO2 emissions down to zero by 2030, well ahead of the European industry benchmarks, thanks to a plan mainly focused on renewable sources and electric mobility.” The two Rome airports had earned their first sustainability certification as early as 2011, and carbon emissions have been plummeting since then, thanks to the involvement of all stakeholders. “Certifications are proof of our deep commitment to environmental topics and of our determined intentions to continue along this path,” points out Troncone, “as we believe in the need to increasingly integrate Sustainability and Innovation in our industry. Considering the carbon intensive nature of the aviation sector, and also to preserve future connectivity, the ADR strategy aims towards the rapid decarbonization of the airports it manages.” In order to reach its goal by 2024, Fiumicino Airport’s action plan centres on sustainable fuels to cut down emissions by 60-80%, on electric mobility –thanks to the installation of about 500 charging points–, and on the construction of two large solar power plants with a combined capacity of 60 MW.
But what’s going on in other European countries?
France, too, has started its fight to reduce sky pollution –however, the French government has opted to decrease the number of short-haul flights instead. As a matter of fact, in April the National Assembly voted in favour of the elimination of some of the routes operated by national airlines: those whose destinations that can be reached in less than two and a half hours by alternative travel from Paris will no longer be available. The French climate change bill, therefore, aims at encouraging rail travel between Paris (Orly) and Nantes, Lyon or Bordeaux, except for a few connecting flights. However, this decision did not meet the approval of members of the Citizens’ Convention for the Climate, an unprecedented democratic experiment that in France aims to give citizens a voice in order to accelerate the fight against climate change. The Convention’s stated purpose is to identify a series of measure that will allow for a greenhouse gas emission reduction of at least 40% by 2030 (as compared to 1990) in a spirit of social justice. Commissioned by President Macron, the Convention includes 150 people, all chosen at random in order to ensure appropriate representation of the diverse French population. And yet, it is precisely the Convention the first to criticise the National Assembly’s decision –although, to be fair, the members of the Citizens’ convention for the Climate had asked the government to put a stop on all internal flights for destinations that required less than four hours by train.
The debate on clean skies also touches Brussels: indeed, on 22 April, the European Commission organised a conference entitled Clean Sky, a chance to reflect upon the future of aviation. Among its participants were the Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean, the Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton, and several chief administrative officers from airlines and public authorities. “The challenges faced by the aviation industry demand significant investments,” declared Jean-Eric Paquet, EC Director-General of Research and Innovation, “only with the strong commitment of all parties concerned we can hope to achieve the ambitious target we have set for ourselves.” Hence, Europe is looking at a partnership for clean aviation and Horizon Europe is willing to support the green recovery of a sector that is crucial for the attainment of the Green Deal objectives.
The author: Maria Pia Rossignaud
Journalist and expert on digital media writing, she is one of the twenty-five digital experts of the European Commission Representation in Italy, director of the first Italian digital culture magazine "Media Duemila" and Vice President of the TuttiMedia Observatory.