Whichever way you look at it, air travel is terrible for the environment. Planes are responsible for two percent of all human-produced CO2 emissions, rising to 12 percent of transport emissions. And as much-vaunted innovations like sustainable plane fuels fail to take off, time is running out to limit the effects of those emissions on the climate.
One thing we can do, however, is drastically reduce the amount we fly. Which is why a recent move from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is so bold. Schiphol is the first airport in the world to have said it will permanently limit its number of flights in order to combat climate change.
Starting in 2023, Amsterdam’s main airport will cut back to a maximum of 440,000 flights per year, which is about 12 percent fewer than its 2019 peak.
The policy is significant not just because Schiphol is the first airport to cut back, but because it’s also a really, really significant aviation hub. Behind London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle, Schiphol is the third-busiest airport in Europe.
According to a report from the Dutch government (which majority-owns Schiphol), the benefits of reducing flights will extend much further than just helping slow climate change. Due to lower levels of noise and fewer emissions, the scheme is expected to greatly improve the lives of both the people and wildlife living near the airport.
Another aspect is that Amsterdam Schiphol has, like many airports around the world, seen its fair share of queues, delays and cancellations over the past few months. By lowering its number of flights, the airport is also reducing the risk of being caught out again by high passenger numbers.
In any case, by putting the environment before profits, Schiphol is potentially showing how the aviation industry can act to slow global warming and avert the climate crisis. All of which is, needless to say, a very good thing.
You can read Schiphol’s statement about the flight reduction in full (though if your Dutch isn’t up to scratch, it’ll have to be through an automatic translator) here.