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A recent study discovered that London is the city that is most vulnerable to air pollution caused by aviation in the world.
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A recent study discovered that London is the city that is most vulnerable to air pollution caused by aviation in the world.

Every year, the airports in London produce air pollution equivalent to the emissions from 3.23 million cars due to planes taking off and landing. In comparison, residents of Tokyo and Dubai are exposed to harmful emissions from air traffic equivalent to 2.78 million cars.

New research has identified three cities as the most heavily impacted by air pollution from flights traveling to and from airports globally. The study tracked both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from both passenger and cargo flights.

The combined carbon emissions of the top 20 airports were equivalent to those of 58 coal-fired power plants.

“Pollution around airports is growing year on year,” said Jo Dardenne, the aviation director at Transport & Environment, the thinktank which helped produce the research. “It affects millions of people, who breathe in toxic emissions and develop health conditions as a result, yet policymakers are brushing the problem under the carpet.

The rapid increase of the industry and airports is not in line with their environmental objectives, particularly due to the delayed adoption of sustainable technology. The industry assured us that they would recover stronger after the pandemic. While they have indeed rebounded, without taking action, the industry’s impact on the environment and public health will not improve.

In collaboration with T&E, the 2024 Airport Tracker, created by the international affairs organization ODI, has updated its initial study from 2021. This new version now considers the environmental impact of both air travel and freight, taking into account the emissions of NOx and PM2.5 from 1,300 airports.

An Emirates jetliner comes in to land at Dubai International airport; the control tower, a terminal building and parked planes are seen in the foreground and the city is seen in the far distanceView image in fullscreen

2 in 2018.

Dubai, located in the United Arab Emirates, was identified as the top contributor to global airport pollution with a recorded emission of 20.1 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018.2

In just one year, the amount of emissions produced is about equal to the greenhouse gas emissions of five coal power plants. This also includes 7,531 tonnes of NOx and 71 tonnes of PM2.5.

2 in 2004

In 2004, London’s Heathrow airport ranked as the second-highest contributor to climate impact with a emission of 19.1 million tonnes of CO2.2

After one year, it was reported to have 5,844 tonnes of NOx emissions, which ranked it lower on the list in 16th place due to its 37 tonnes of PM2.5 pollution.

The situation becomes more complex from this point. The connection between airports’ contributions to climate change and their emissions of other harmful substances is not clearly established.

Critics have pointed out that air travel lacks adequate measures to control pollution caused by airports. According to Magdalena Heuwieser, a member of the activist group Stay Grounded, there is a continuous violation of aircraft noise levels and a complete absence of EU regulations on ultrafine particles, which pose a significant threat to public health.

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“Some urgent steps need to be implemented in order to safeguard the well-being of employees and local residents near airports. These could include restrictions on night flights or improvements to jet fuel to meet the same standards as car fuel. However, relying solely on technology is not a complete solution; decreased air traffic is the most efficient and necessary approach.”

In light of future implications for climate and air quality, Sam Pickard, a research associate at ODI, states that airports are considered long-term infrastructure. Thus, greater efforts must be made to acknowledge and restrict expansion in various regions globally.

The Guardian reached out to the International Air Transport Association for a response.

Source: theguardian.com