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GLIMPSE2050: How regulation can reduce aviation’s environmental footprint

05 July 2021

A slew of regulations and policies are currently under discussion to try to reduce aviation’s environmental impact. But the debates around these policies are complex: what are the best policies to implement? Which ones are most likely to be implemented? When? Will they contribute to the ambitious targets set by the European Green Deal? And finally, how effective will these policies be?

They could be pretty effective, according to research carried out by Clean Sky’s GLIMPSE2050 (Global Impact Assessment of Regulations and Polices for Sustainable Aviation by 2050) project. 

Assuming that Clean Sky 2 would also have matured sustainable aviation technology that would be in operation by 2050, the GLIMPSE2050 team revealed that regulations and policies designed to make aviation more sustainable could reduce global CO2 emissions from aircraft by 11% and NOX emissions by 14%.

They found that the policies and regulations on ATM modernisation, wake energy retrieval, and fuel and ticket-based tax appeared to be the dominant contributors to these reductions. Further, the results suggest that the selected regulations and policies tend to decrease the number of flights and number of flown aircraft-kilometres, reduce fleet size (with an increased share of Clean Sky 2 concept aircraft), and increase the share of long-haul flights. 

The GLIMPSE2050 project took a 4-step approach to reach their conclusions. First of all, they conducted an in-depth literature review compiling information from governmental organisations (e.g. EU and ICAO) and non-governmental and trade organisations (e.g. IATA, ATAG, and ICCT) as well as publications in media (e.g. Aviation Week, EURACTIV, and Flight Global).

Next, a series of environmental impact indicators were selected and monitored, such as the total amount of CO2 and NOX emitted by the aircraft fleet worldwide.

Thirdly, an assessment approach was set up using forecasts on fleet and movements up to 2050 provided by the Technology Evaluator. These forecasts were based on autonomous economic, demographical and technological developments, but without any of the selected regulations and policies.

GLIMPSE2050 fine-tuned EASA’s and ICAO-CAEP endorsed tool AERO-MS to fit with the selected regulations and policies, while matching the fleet and movements forecasts provided by the Technology Evaluator.

Finally, GLIMPSE2050 carried out the environmental-impact assessment of the selected regulations and policies. Every regulation and policy was assessed individually first, and then as part of selected groups of regulations and policies. Finally, GLIMPSE2050 assessed all the regulations and policies combined, and came to the conclusion of a 11% reduction in CO2 and a 14% reduction in NOx. Assuming that Clean Sky 2’s innovative technologies would also be in the skies by 2050, GLIMPSE2050 found that there were significant environmental gains. 

At the end of the project, a workshop was held to disseminate the results of GLIMPSE2050. Participants at the workshop included key stakeholders as well as the European institutions. 

The project consortium consisted of the Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR) with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) as the topic manager and leader of the Technology Evaluator. The budget was € 193,670.