MIAMI – As part of its effort to cut emissions, Ryanair (FR) will install electric ground-handling equipment at 11 European airports. The initiative will include airports in Madrid, Amsterdam, and Oslo.

Ryanair said in a statement Wednesday that it will debut electric-powered luggage carts and plane push-back tractors alongside partners Azul Handling and Menzies Aviation. Azul will enable it to deliver zero-emission turnarounds at eight locations in Spain, saving 1,000 tons of CO2 per year, according to the company.

As Bloomberg points out, even as travel demand recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, carriers are under growing pressure to reduce emissions.

The world counts 1,478 airlines operating a total of 33,299 aircraft serving 3,780 airports, a network of several million kilometers, managed by 162 air navigation controlling authorities.

Due to longer development timetables and safety considerations, airplanes, unlike vehicles or power plants, are exceedingly difficult to decarbonize, forcing airlines to explore ways to comply through operating efficiency and sustainable aviation fuels.

ACA B38M at YVR | Boeing 737-8 MAX. Photo: Michal Mendyk/Airways

The Industry and CO2 Emissions

Last June, Airports Council International (ACI) World and its five ACI regions announced their commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. During a recent Aviation Sustainability Summit, ACI revealed that out of its 235 airports, 91 of them are set to achieve this goal by 2030.

The other ACI regions, consisting of ACI Africa, ACI Asia-Pacific, ACI Latin America & Caribbean, and ACI North America have agreed to join this ambitious long-term carbon goal. 

Similarly, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airline industry’s major lobbying group, set a goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2050 earlier this month.

Still, aviation and the commercial airline industry, in particular, is often finger-pointed as having the greatest global share in CO2 emissions but, when going through data published by different specialized sources, the picture looks different.

Todays’ modern jets are over 80% more fuel-efficient than those operated in 1960 when seats/kilometers are taken into account. Alternative fuels, including Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), have been identified as having the potential to reduce aviation fuel carbon footprint by 80%.

Another interesting datum is that 80% of CO² emissions comes from flights of over 1,500km (810nm) to destinations that do not have any other practical transport alternative

It is a fact that the transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Omitting 2020, transportation accounted for 29% of GHG emissions in 2019, of which air transport accounted for only 2%, that is 0.0058% of total global emissions.

The reality is that the commercial aviation industry, with authorities’ and airlines’ initiatives such as IATA’s and FR’s, not to mention the rise of electric-powered flight enterprises, is leading the effort to cut emissions, unlike any other industry.

Featured image: Ryanair afternoon. Photo: Fabrizio Spicuglia/Airways