Environmental values form a key part of our strategy. We use the very latest technologies in our efforts to maximise the benefits of our products and services, while minimising the environmental impact of their manufacturing and operation.
In the last 50 years, the aviation industry has cut fuel burn and CO2 emissions per seat / kilometer by more than 80%, NOx emissions by 90% and noise by 75%. While this improvement is extremely impressive, societal expectations and the predicted high traffic growth rate are placing increasing demands on all aviation stakeholders to continually reduce its impact on health and climate change.
Airbus has committed to the UN Global Compact principles, including the following three environmental principles:
On a global industry level, Airbus, along with airlines, airports, air traffic management and other manufacturers, committed in 2008 to the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) CO2 emission goals:
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Carbon Offsetting & Reduction Scheme for Aviation (CORSIA) will also play an important role in achieving Carbon Neutral Growth from 2020.
At a European level, we are also guided by the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE)'s long-term aim to reduce air transport CO2 emissions by up to 75% by 2050.
We also continue to proactively support emissions reduction once the aircraft goes into service. This could be through fuel efficiency services, ground operations, air traffic management optimization and sustainable fuel flights.
Reaching the ambitious 2050 target will require disruptive approaches in technology, which we are actively pursuing.
By delivering aircraft such as the A350 XWB, 25% more efficient than the previous generation aircraft, or pursuing rotary-wing innovation programmes such as Bluecopter, the average global fleet fuel efficiency per annum has been more than 2% over the last 5 years.
We have made rapid progress on electric propulsion with the E-Fan, a fully electric aircraft, and Airbus will build on its findings to further unlock the potential of hybrid-electric propulsion by developing the E-Fan X near-term flight demonstrator through a partnership with Rolls-Royce and Siemens.
Our research and development also focuses on low-carbon fuels, noise reduction, innovative ways of operating the aircraft and sustainable ways to offset emissions.
Airbus established the Sustainable Aviation Engagement Programme in 2015 to pilot and share with operators environmental best practices and performance improvements. Several airlines now participate, enabling them to harness the full potential of our aircraft, together with optimised operations, to minimise fuel burn and noise emissions.
We use numerous methods to lower our energy consumption, including highly efficient LED lighting, improved insulation and timers and motion sensors to operate lighting and equipment only when required. Displaying energy usage data in manufacturing areas is helping to raise energy awareness.
From a fleet of electric cars at our Toulouse site, to biomass boilers using wood from local sustainable forests, we are finding more ways to limit our CO2 output. We have installed tens of thousands of photovoltaic panels across several sites, as well as combined heat and power systems which offer an efficient way of generating heat and electricity with low emissions. Innovative solar cooling also offers a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional air-conditioning.
A new system has been introduced to reduce paper consumption across Airbus in France, while recycling areas at Defence and Space facilities in Germany promote zero waste. In Toulouse, thousands of tonnes of liquid effluent are processed each year, allowing the water separated to be poured back into the rainwater network. Excessive sealant use has been cut and material recovery from rivet and drill waste is helping fund a charity in Spain.
Instead of using drinking water for industrial and sanitary needs, Airbus in Hamburg now treats river water, resulting in significant savings. In Spain, waterless urinals will be installed at all sites and air-cooled pumps are replacing water-cooled versions. Improved irrigation and revamped landscaping is helping to conserve water usage in Texas.
Airbus has been working to reduce its use of volatile organic compounds (VOC) for some time. Pre-impregnated wipes have replaced solvents to clean painting equipment and new waterborne paints use low amounts of VOC. In Hamburg, a new procedure to paint the A380 is in operation, with electrostatic guns keeping paint mist to a minimum, while exhaust air is cleaned and treated – ensuring particles of paint can be disposed of separately.
Our satellite technology is used to monitor changes in the environment, enabling governments and other agencies to monitor and understand more about climate change and the environment.
Copernicus, for example, is the programme for the establishment of a European capacity for Earth observation and addresses six specific topics: oceans, atmosphere, climate change, land, security and emergency management. Airbus plays a crucial role in constructing the Sentinel satellites and their instruments.
Pléiades and SPOT Earth observation satellites provide high-value geospatial information that helps quantify the effects of climate change, as well as delivering important data in fields such as agriculture, deforestation and environment monitoring.
Starling: sustainable forest management
More and more companies are committing to cutting deforestation from their supply chains. But defining deforestation can be complicated. By using Airbus’ SPOT constellation of satellites and image processing service, Starling helps companies to precisely monitor their practices and compliance in forest conservation.
Learn how Starling earth observation technology is helping to reduce deforestation
WorldDEM Urban Footprint: mapping human settlements
A reliable global reference layer about the presence of human settlements and urban structures is the basis for monitoring environmental and urban development, crucial for decision-making in global change, climate change, natural disasters, geo-risks, political conflicts and access to resources, among other things.
FARMSTAR: precision agriculture
FARMSTAR allows farming professionals to know exactly what their crops need and when, and achieve savings in the amounts of fertiliser and pesticides used – thus reducing harmful nitrous oxide emissions. By combining satellite images from our constellation with strong agronomical expertise, FARMSTAR supplies a complete range of advice for crops, enabling modulation of agricultural inputs.
How FARMSTAR is helping farmers achieve a more sustainable production of crops