News: Ministry: Impact of aviation on air quality is limited

Studies commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W) show that the impact of aviation on air quality in the Netherlands is limited. You can find out what that means exactly in this article.

Published on: 4 January 2024

Both Schiphol and the Ministry want the living environment around airports in the Netherlands to improve and the air to become cleaner. We are already taking quite a few measures to achieve this and are working on even more initiatives. To gain insight into exactly how much aviation contributes to the total emissions of harmful substances in the vicinity of Schiphol, the Ministry of I&W commissioned a number of studies.

Which substances

First of all, TNO identified which so-called substances of very high concern (ZZS) are released as a result of aviation (only available in Dutch). Four different follow-up studies were then launched to find out the impact of these emissions on local air quality.

  • The Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR) investigated the contribution of aircraft to ZZS concentrations at and around airports.
  • Research firm Adecs examined the relative and absolute contribution of aircraft emissions to local air quality for a number of substances.
  • Consultancy firm To70 assessed the effects of fleet development on aircraft emissions.
  • The same agency also worked out a uniform method for calculating the impact of aircraft emissions on air quality.

Influence is limited

According to I&W, the research results show that the effect of aviation on local air quality is limited. In residential areas around Schiphol, for instance, the Ministry says that sources other than the airport are 95 percent responsible for worsening local air quality.

As there is increasing attention for the health effects of aviation these days, and because it is important to also look at the coherence of the various studies, I&W will now submit the results to independent experts for further interpretation of the conclusions. This will also involve the Schiphol Social Council (MRS).

Continuing to take measures

Despite studies showing that emissions of substances of very high concern from aviation remain within available standards, we believe it is important to continue taking measures that help improve air quality. We have already taken a number of steps in recent years to reduce emissions and we will continue to do so:

  • We have tightened the rules on single-engine taxiing and are optimising taxi routes.
  • We continue to develop sustainable taxiing.
  • All aircraft at the gate will be connected to electricity from autumn 2024, so diesel generators will no longer be needed.
  • We continue to encourage the use of cleaner aircraft through our airport charges.
  • We continue to invest in developing sustainable fuels.

The above measures are in line with suggestions made by TNO earlier this year. They previously published an overview of practical measures (only available in Dutch).

Want to find out more about what we are doing to make our own operation and the aviation sector in general more sustainable? You can read about it here. And if you want to know more about the studies and conclusions, read this I&W news release and the letter about it to the House of Representatives (only available in Dutch).