In World First, Netherlands Caps Flights at Major Airport to Cut Pollution

Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. Patano via Wikipedia

The Dutch government is capping the number of flights from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport at 440,000, a 12 percent cut from pre-pandemic levels. The new policy, set to take effect at the end of 2023, is the world’s first to limit flights for environmental reasons.

In a letter outlining the decision, Transportation Minister Mark Harbers said that people living near the airport, the third-busiest in Europe, “are inconvenienced by aircraft noise and are concerned about negative effects on their health, nature and the climate.” He added, “A reduction in the number of aircraft movements leads to less noise pollution and fewer emissions of CO2 … This is a necessary contribution from the aviation sector.”

The new policy follows an announcement from Schiphol Airport, which said earlier this month that it will reduce the number of passengers it handles this summer by 16 percent, citing staffing shortages. Schiphol is majority owned by the Dutch state.

Environmentalists cheered the move. Dewi Zloch, an aviation campaigner at Greenpeace, called it a “historic breakthrough,” saying, “This is a boost for Schiphol to finally come up with a plan that takes into account the Paris Climate Agreement.”

Dutch airline KLM criticized the new cap, saying it “does not tally with the desire to retain a strong hub function for our national economy.”

A recent report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found that, to do their part to limit warming to under 2 degrees C, airlines must not only switch to low-carbon fuels such as hydrogen and biofuel, they must also curb flight numbers.

“It’s exciting to see the industry developing new technologies that can dramatically reduce aviation emissions,” Dan Rutherford, ICCT’s aviation program director, said in a statement. “But to fully meet the ambitions of the Paris Agreement, either atmospheric carbon removals or curbs to traffic growth will be needed.”


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