Concept of climate-charged airspaces: a potential policy instrument for internalizing aviation's climate impact of non-CO2 effects

Malte Niklaβ*, Volker Grewe, Volker Gollnick, Katrin Dahlmann

*Corresponding author for this work

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Approximately 50–75% of aviation's climate impact is caused by non-CO2 effects, like the production of ozone and the formation of contrail cirrus clouds, which can be effectively prevented by re-routing flights around highly climate-sensitive areas. Here, we discuss options how to incentivize re-routing approaches and apply multicriteria trajectory optimizations to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept of climate-charged airspaces (CCAs). We show that although climate-optimized re-routing results in slightly longer flight times, increased fuel consumption and higher operating costs, it is more climate-friendly compared to a cost-optimized routing. In accordance to other studies, we find that the averaged temperature response over 100 years (ATR (Formula presented.)) of a single flight can be reduced by up to 40%. However, if mitigation efforts are associated with a direct increase in costs, there is a need for climate policies. To address the lack of incentivizing airlines to internalize their climate costs, this study focuses on the CCA concept, which imposes a climate charge on airlines when operating in highly climate-sensitive areas. If CCAs are (partly) bypassed, both climate impact and operating costs of a flight can be reduced: a more climate-friendly routing becomes economically attractive. For an exemplary North-Atlantic network, CCAs create a financial incentive for climate mitigation, achieving on average more than 90% of the climate impact reduction potential of climate-optimized trajectories (theoretical maximum, benchmark). Key policy insights Existing climate policies for aviation do not address non- (Formula presented.) effects, which are very sensitive to the location and the timing of the emission. By imposing a temporary climate charge for airlines that operate in highly climate-sensitive regions, the trade-off between economic viability and environmental compatibility could be resolved: Climate impact mitigation of non- (Formula presented.) effects coincides with cutting costs. To ensure easy planning and verification, climate charges are calculated analogously to en-route and terminal charges. For climate mitigation it is therefore neither necessary to monitor emissions ((Formula presented.) (Formula presented.), etc.) nor to integrate complex non- (Formula presented.) effects into flight planning procedures of airlines. Its implementation is feasible and effective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1066-1085
Number of pages20
JournalClimate Policy
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • aviation emissions
  • climate change mitigation
  • cost-benefit analysis
  • non- effects
  • trajectory optimization
  • Transport policy


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