33 organisations urge the EU to address the full climate impact of aviation now

by | 03 Dec 2020 | Press Release

  • New analysis for the European Commission underlines that aviation’s climate impact is far worse than widely claimed.
  • Despite this, the European Commission is not proposing any meaningful action within the next few years
  • Campaigners demand a sustained reduction of air traffic and a just transition.

Vienna/Brussels, December 3, 2020 – Today, 33 NGOs have sent an open letter to the three EU institutions’s presidents, urging them not to waste time in the fight to prevent climate-damaging emissions from aviation. This follows recent analysis for the European Commission, which concludes that air traffic has three times the climate impact in relation to its CO2 emissions alone. The undersigning organisations, among them Stay Grounded, Greenpeace, CAN Europe and Transport & Environment, demand that immediate political action must follow to mitigate aviation’s total climate impact. The most effective way to do so is to ensure air travel is reduced and does not return to pre-COVID levels.

This analysis underlines what we have been warning about for a long time: air traffic is three times as bad for the climate as its CO2 emissions alone. The EU must now take action and address the full climate impact of air traffic! It must not be pushed back to pre-pandemic levels with costly subsidies,” says Magdalena Heuwieser, spokesperson of Stay Grounded, a global network of 170 organisations that aims for a climate-just transport system.
The analysis produced by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) acknowledges that aviation’s impact on the climate is approximately three times that of CO2 alone: non-CO2 impacts, mainly those of contrail cirrus and NOx, are overall twice as bad for the climate as those of CO2. “It’s worrying that in its report to Parliament and Council, the EU Commission is watering down the message of the scientific analysis and postponing necessary action. Measures must not be taken in five to eight years, as the Commission proposes, but today!” says Heuwieser. On December 9th, the EU Commission will release a strategy for “smart and sustainable mobility”. The organisations demand that effective measures to reduce aviation’s total climate impact must be included in this strategy.

“This analysis underlines what we have been warning about for a long time: air traffic is three times as bad for the climate as its CO2 emissions alone. The EU must now take action and address the full climate impact of air traffic!”

– Magdalena Heuwieser, Stay Grounded

In their letter, the NGOs demand three steps: 

  1. Measures must be implemented to reduce intra-EU and international flights. Short haul flights must be banned where there is a cleaner alternative, and construction and expansion of airports must cease. All subsidies to airlines and airports must stop, including the tax exemptions on tickets and fuel. Instead of giving unconditional bailouts to the aviation industry, recovery packages must finance a just transition process for the workers, towards a sustainable transport system, with investments for alternatives like rail travel and renewable-powered ships.
  2. Non-CO2 impacts have to be fully accounted for by the EU and member states. Under the precautionary principle, the amount of CO2 emitted by aircraft must be tripled in GHG reporting systems, including in national emissions inventories.
  3. Promising solutions to mitigate non-CO2 impacts such as contrail avoidance must be pursued without delay. The EU must give visibility on the regulation of non-CO2 impacts that could influence the choice of technologies and fuels for the aircrafts of the future. It needs to do so much earlier than in 5-8 years time due to the lengthy lead times associated with their development and certification.

The open letter was signed by: Stay Grounded, Greenpeace, CAN Europe (Climate Action Network), Transport & Environment, Carbon Market Watch, Germanwatch, Ecologistas en Acción, Milieu Defensie, Réseau Action Climat, NOAH – Friends of the Earth Denmark, UECNA (European Union Against Aircraft Nuisance), UFCNA (Union Francaise Contre les Nuisance des Aéronefs), Robin Wood, Zaļā brīvība, Schipholwatch, Am Boden bleiben, Aterra, Periskop, Umanotera, Erasmus by Train, Protect Our Winters Europe, Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement, Airport Watch, Zomer Zonder Vliegen, BAW Fluglaermschutz Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein, Safe Landing, AbibiNsroma Foundation, Alofa Tuvalu, cBalance solutions hub, 350 Seattle, Flight Free Australia, Flight Free Germany, Coordination of Indigenous Peoples and Organisations Eastern Mexico State CPOOEM


More information: 


Press Contact: 

Magdalena Heuwieser