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Adapting aviation to a changing climate

Climate solutions Environmental

This report is part of the fifth Challenges of Growth study, which aims to deliver the best-achievable information to support longterm planning decisions for aviation in Europe. It is the second annex to the summary report “European Aviation in 2040” (Ref. 1) and considers the challenge of adapting to climate change.

The climate is changing and this will impact European aviation. Over the medium and long term there will be changes to temperatures, to rain, snow, wind and storm patterns, and in the sea-level. These will impact aviation operations, infrastructure and underlying demand.

A re-run of the 2013 climate adaptation stakeholder survey suggests that awareness of such potential impacts of climate change, and the need to adapt and build resilience, is increasing. More than 90 responses to the survey were received from air navigation service providers, airport operators, airlines, civil aviation authorities and manufacturers from across Europe covering all of the main European climate zones. A majority of respondents expect climate change to affect their business by 2050. Around a quarter of overall respondents are already experiencing some impacts of climate change.

Stakeholders expect higher temperatures, increased precipitation, extreme weather and changing wind conditions to be the main challenges they will need to address. They expect these to generate operational impacts and changes to the costs of operating their business. A small number view climate change as a positive opportunity.

Eighty-six percent of respondents expect adaptation to the impacts of climate change to be necessary and a growing number of organisations are starting to carry out risk assessments and develop adaptation strategies: 53% have currently begun adaptation and resilience planning.

Impacts and adaptation measures required will vary according to climate zone, geographical location and type of operation, and individual organisations will take their own adaptation planning decisions. However, a risk assessment can be a solid basis for assessing what actions are required.

Stakeholders consider that both the European aviation sector as a whole, and European ATM in particular, are taking measures to adapt to climate change, but that more still needs to be done. The extent to which adaptation measures are required is each organisation’s decision but, due to the interconnectedness of the European and global aviation systems, an integrated and collaborative approach to building resilience is required; we need to assess whether sufficient measures are being implemented quickly enough, or whether we need to accelerate action.

Download the report here.