EEA Report Analyzes Environmental Impacts of Aviation and Shipping

EEA4 February 2018: A ‘Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism’ (TERM) report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) analyzes drivers behind the increasingly negative environmental impact of Europe’s shipping and aviation industries, and offers policy recommendations to reverse the trend. The report titled, ‘Aviation and shipping — impacts on Europe’s environment’ identifies barriers to change and recommends that governments invest in research, product standards and subsidies, and exchange of best practices regarding new technologies.SDG-goals_Goal-07 Affordable & Clean Energy

The report highlights that though the environmental impacts in many other economic sectors have decreased since 1990, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with Europe’s aviation and shipping sectors have increased. Since 1990, GHG emissions resulting from international aviation have more than doubled, increasing at an average rate of 2% per year over last four years, the highest increase of any sector. GHG emissions from European international shipping, represented the second highest increase, growing by 22% since 1990, though they have been decreasing since 2007-2008. The report projects that, EU GHG emissions from all transport sectors will rise to 15% above 1990 levels by 2050, significantly higher than its target to reduce such emissions by 60% by 2050.

The report also indicates that apart from the generation of GHG emissions, shipping and aviation are important sources of the main air pollutants in the EU. The sectors are also responsible for noise pollution, pressures on land use and natural habitats, negative impacts on water quality, and high levels of waste and water demand.

SDG-goals_Goal-09 Idustry, Innovation & Infrastructure

The report identifies three barriers to change: financial aspects, knowledge needs and stakeholder interests. Financial aspects, such as historic airport and port infrastructure investments, the costs of renewable energy, and fossil fuel subsidies, act as negative incentives to change in the sectors. Knowledge needs include accessibility and transparency of data on the viability of new technologies and operating practices. Stakeholder interests refer to resistance to change from incumbent operators, arising from the decades-long lifespans of airplanes and vessels that “lock-in” design decisions, and the lack of alternative fuel supply infrastructure.SDG-goals_Goal-13 Climate Action

The report recommends that governments develop “niches” to encourage the uptake of innovation that can be hindered by barriers and lock-in. It also notes that regulatory measures can provide clear signals to operators, influencing the uptake of new technologies.

The TERM report is published annually by the EEA to assess key trends, measures and progress of the transport sector towards environmental policy targets. [EEA Press Release] [Publication: Aviation and shipping — impacts on Europe’s environment TERM 2017: Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM) report]

References: International Institute for Sustainable Development. 2018. Retrieved from

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