Air transport and the decarbonisation test: challenges and opportunities | CDP

Air transport and the decarbonisation test: challenges and opportunities

How is the resumption of air transport in Italy progressing? What are the main challenges at the international level? Where does aviation stand on these fronts? What actions can be taken to improve this positioning?

The document sets out the main challenges facing air transport, given its vital role in the country's economic context, and the path taken by the sector in Italy in an international context increasingly characterised by uncertainty and a focus on sustainability issues.

Read the report’s key messages and download the document for further information

  • Air transport is an enabler for tourism, international trade, access to new markets and the appeal of regions.
  • In order to continue to play this role, it is necessary to guide the sector along a transition path that progressively reduces harmful emissions into the environment. Although they account for a relatively small proportion of global CO2 emissions (around 2.5% globally), emissions from this sector have increased significantly in recent years.
  • The main environmental impact of aviation is caused by aircraft travel, especially long-haul flights, which account for the majority of total emissions.
  • In this context, sustainable aviation fuels, or SAFs, produced mainly from processes using organic waste, represent the most promising path to decarbonisation.
  • New propulsion systems (hydrogen or electric aircraft) can make a further contribution, although the transition to more efficient aircraft will take a relatively long time due to high costs, lower technological maturity, and fleet and infrastructure replacement times.
  • On the other hand, digital innovation for the efficiency of airport operations and the modernisation of infrastructure can be implemented on a large scale faster than the technological development of aircraft, with significant positive effects in the short term.
  • At European level, it is estimated that more than €200 billion1 of investment will be needed by 2040 to modernise existing infrastructure in a sustainable way.
  • In Italy, infrastructure investments by airport managers in 2022 will reach around €510 million, of which almost €69 million will be attributable to the Next Generation EU priorities of digitalisation, environmental transition and intermodal transport.
  • Encouraging investment in the sector could accelerate the achievement of green and digital objectives and contribute to the competitive positioning of the sector with a view to a greater focus on long-term sustainability.

1The estimate refers to the cumulative total. Airport Council International, “Global Outlook of Airport Capital Expenditure: Meeting Sustainable Development Goals and Future Air Travel Demand”, 2021

Read the brief (Available in Italian)