The growth of commercial aviation in Europe is leading to increases in emissions and noise, despite improvements in engine and aerodynamic technologies, according to a new European Union (EU) report.

The 2nd European Aviation Environmental Report (EAER), issued Jan. 24, said the number of flights within the 28-nation EU and the four-nation European Free Trade Association increased 8% between 2014 and 2017 and is likely to grow another 42% by 2040.

Fleet renewals, technical advances and operational efficiencies have only partly offset the resulting growth in emissions, the report said. Since 2014, overall environmental impacts from aviation have increased by 10% for carbon dioxide, 12% for nitrous oxide and 14% for noise.

Over the next two decades, although average fuel burn per passenger kilometer is expected to improve by 12% and “noise energy per flight” by 24%, carbon dioxide emissions are anticipated to increase at least 21% and nitrous oxide at least 16%.

The EAER was prepared by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), together with the European Environment Agency and Eurocontrol, the continent’s air traffic control provider.

“We need concrete and effective action to reduce aviation emissions over the next 10 years in order to support the Paris Agreement objectives and mitigate climate change,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said. “The aviation sector must play its part in this global effort. Since EASA’s rules and our competencies with regard to environment have been further strengthened by the European Union, EASA now plays a leading role in actively developing and implementing measures to address these challenges in cooperation with our partners.”

Outgoing EU environment commissioner Violeta Bulc added that “as Europeans we must continue to pioneer the battle against climate change. This new report shows that our joint actions are working: We have reduced fuel burn and noise per flight, investments have delivered more efficient technologies, airports are becoming carbon neutral and, finally, we are starting to implement the first-ever global scheme to offset CO2 emissions.”

New regulations are aimed at allowing EASA to play a greater role on environmental matters and work to develop solutions in partnership with stakeholders such as EU institutions, nations, industry and non-governmental organizations.

EASA’s extended environmental remit now includes, among other things: maintaining state-of-the-art environmental standards; certifying aircraft and engines against these standards; environmental modeling; and research on emerging topics such as sustainable aviation fuels, electric and hybrid engines, drones and supersonic aircraft.

Alan Dron