Treat aviation like any other business sector

18 April 2019 – Aviation enjoys an exceptional position in Dutch national policy, which holds other mobility sectors or industries more accountable for their impact on the living environment than it does aviation. Aviation growth is increasingly at odds with the Netherlands’ climate objectives and a healthy and pleasant living environment, something that calls for a reconsideration of this exceptional position. This is the conclusion reached by the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) in its advisory report Aviation Policy: A New Approach Path presented to the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management today.

Impose safety and environmental limits instead of ceilings on the number of aircraft movements

At the moment, the environmental pollution caused by aviation is limited mainly by imposing ceilings on the number of aircraft movements. The Rli advocates setting limit values for noise, nuisance, ultrafine particulates and safety, as is the case in other sectors. The Council also recommends tightening up the these limit values at regular intervals. This will encourage airlines to keep their environmental impact ‘as low as reasonably achievable’ (the ALARA principle). Schiphol Airport could also make carriers’ airport fees contingent on their aircraft’s environmental performance.

The Council considers that a new nuisance standard is necessary that does greater justice to perceived nuisance in the vicinity of airports. The new standard should be monitored and enforced more strictly than at present. The current ceiling on number of aircraft movements should only be lifted after the aviation sector complies with the new standard.

Limit night flights

Sleep disturbance due to aircraft noise at night has an adverse impact on health and yet very little mention is made of health in assessments of aviation. Noise nuisance at night should therefore be reduced as much as reasonably achievable. The number of night flights can be limited by introducing an additional price incentive to making flying at night considerably more expensive. Another option is to simply prohibit departures at night, after a transitional period during which any further increases in night flights are banned.

Develop a national climate policy for aviation

Aviation is subject to the Paris Climate Agreement, but the Netherlands has not defined any carbon reduction targets for the aviation sector. There are international agreements, but these are based on carbon offsetting and not on reduction. In the Netherlands, carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft departures alone exceeded 12 megatonnes this year; without additional restrictions, these emissions will continue to grow in the years ahead. By way of comparison, the remaining sectors of the Dutch economy may emit only 10 megatonnes of carbon dioxide in 2050. That is why the Council considers that a national climate policy for aviation is inevitable. Since sustainable fuel is the most promising method of reducing aircraft carbon emissions in the short term, the Council recommends requiring fuel suppliers to Dutch airports to blend sustainable fuel with conventional kerosene. To prevent carriers from refuelling abroad instead of in the Netherlands, the price gap between sustainable fuel and conventional kerosene should be subsidised by introducing a higher tax on airline tickets.

Focus on transport connections that have value for the Netherlands rather than as many connections as possible

A good aviation network is important for the Netherlands’ international accessibility. Network quality is often measured by the number of destinations served per airport. The Council calls for more research into which air connections truly make a valuable contribution to prosperity in the Netherlands. Connections by rail, road and waterway should also be considered in this analysis.

Hold passengers accountable in policy

There are plenty of cheap airline tickets available nowadays. The growing number of aircraft movements that has resulted is the source of much environmental pollution. Nevertheless, unlike motorists, for example, airline passengers are scarcely ever encouraged to choose another mode of transport. In addition to a tax on tickets that will actually influence passenger behaviour and more fast rail services as an alternative to air travel, the Council advises making measures intended to influence behaviour a permanent element of aviation policy.


Note for editors

To request interviews, please contact communications officer Miep Eisner at
For information about the advisory report, please contact project leader Bart Swanenvleugel at