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Airports, air pollution and climate change

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Shandelle Steadman, Sam Pickard

Image credit:Tekja

This policy brief accompanies the 2024 Airport Tracker, a global inventory of CO2 and local air pollutants at the airport level aimed at highlighting the climate impact of the world’s largest airports.

The aviation sector is a major contributor to climate change and air pollution. With the exception of 2020, emissions from air travel continue on a upward trend, and tackling them presents significant challenges. We make this data available to help those working to limit the aviation sector’s climate impact and to provide transparency, accountability and comparability for global airport infrastructure-related emissions.

Among the findings, this research shows that just 20 airports generated the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions as 58 coal plants in 2019, the year for which latest data is available. The most polluting airport, Dubai International, produced the same emissions as 5 coal plants and in 2019, The top 20 most polluting airports produced the same amount of dangerous Nitrogen Oxides and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) as 31 million passenger cars in 2019.

This policy brief was written by Shandelle Steadman and Sam Pickard of ODI as part of the Airport Tracker project, jointly led by ODI and Transport and Environment (T&E), with data provided by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and design support from Tekja. The project is supported by ClimateWorks Foundation.