Five of Europe’s airports are 'emitting more CO2 combined than Sweden'

Planes on the runway at Paris Charles de Gaulle
Planes on the runway at Paris Charles de Gaulle Copyright Christophe Ena/AP
By Luke Hurst
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A tracker documenting the CO2 emissions of airports around the world shows the annual emissions, which are largely tax free, of five of Europe’s biggest airports, amount to more than the annual emissions of Sweden.


The CO2 emissions from five of Europe’s biggest airports combined surpass those of the whole of Sweden, an airport emissions tracker shows.

Largely tax-free, the total emissions from London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Amsterdam Schiphol and Madrid Barajas amount to 53 million tonnes of CO2. In 2020, Sweden emitted some 45.4 million metric tonnes of CO2, fewer than the year before.

The figures come from The Airport Tracker, an online tool illustrating emissions from aircraft departing from airports around the world.

The tracker is a joint project by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), ODI, and Transport and Environment (T&E).

It shows the total amount of passenger-related emissions generated by each airport , but doesn’t include freight.

Europe’s highest flight emissions of passengers per year

Because many of the flights from these airports have destinations outside of Europe, they are exempt from the EU and UK’s cap and trade schemes, which only cover domestic EU flights.

For example 80 per cent of Paris Charles de Gaulle’s emissions come from long-haul flights, whereas smaller airports, such as Krakow, are largely short haul. Therefore smaller airports are being taxed more than larger ones which operate longer, higher-emission flights.

All five large airports mentioned above have plans for expansion.

Jo Dardenne, aviation manager at T&E, said: “Unlike cars or power stations, most flight emissions are released outside of Europe’s borders, leaving the vast bulk of emissions from European airports scandalously overlooked. All flights should be included in the emission trading system, not just the ones within Europe.”

“We can now see the alarming extent of airport emissions and it is clear that the aviation sector isn’t doing enough to curb its pollution. We cannot justify airport expansion in this time of climate crisis,” she added.

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