Environmental Permit Brussels Airport

With a view to the renewal of this permit, independent experts are assessing the airport’s environmental impact.

Why does Brussels Airport need to renew its environmental permit?

The current environmental permit for Brussels Airport is valid until 8 July 2024. The application for a new environmental permit, which is granted by the Flemish Government, will be submitted by 8 July this year at the latest. Brussels Airport is not requesting an expansion of its runway capacity or additional night slots: the EIA relates solely to the renewal of the environmental permit for the current activities and airport infrastructure.

Why this ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’?

While an EIA, or environmental impact assessment, is not required for permit renewal, Brussels Airport has decided to have an EIA drawn up by independent experts to examine the effects of the airport activities. It did so on its own initiative and in full transparency because sustainability is central to the airport's strategy.

Which scenarios are examined in the EIA?

In addition to calculating the present environmental effects (based on pre-Covid year 2019), a realistic future scenario within the existing runway infrastructure was also considered. This scenario is based on organic, normal economic growth which the airport will see as the country's second economic engine and employer of 64,000 people. The calculation assumes an evolution to 32 million passengers and 1 million tonnes of flown cargo in 2032, with a nearly stable number of flight movements compared to 2019. In 2022, 621,000 tonnes of cargo were shipped at Brussels Airport, a considerable part of which was carried on board of passenger aircraft.

What are the main results of this EIA study?

In terms of noise nuisance, in the future scenario examined in the EIA there is a possible increase in the number of people potentially highly annoyed by noise only as a result of the population increase. The flight movement capacity remains the same (74 flight movements per hour); in addition, the evolution of the fleet with more modern and quieter aircraft will lead to a reduction in noise impact.

In terms of air quality and emissions from airport activities, the expected growth has a slight impact, but emissions will remain below the threshold of the applicable air quality standard. Brussels Airport and its partners are working to further reduce these emissions. The differentiation in airport tariffs and the electrification of ground handling equipment, among other things, will have a positive effect.

The draft EIA shows that nitrogen deposit may have increased in some nature areas in the area. This is not only due to the airport activities - road traffic, for example, also has a significant impact. Brussels Airport is taking measures to limit nitrogen emissions (electrification of ground handling equipment, differentiated tariffs with nitrogen component, etc.), besides which a clear legal framework at Flemish level is imperative.

Is the EIA publicly available?

At this moment, the advice from the authorities and municipalities on the draft EIA is being collected and processed. That’s why, Brussels Airport organised a digital information session for local residents at the beginning of March. During this session, the broad outlines of the study were explained, and further questions were answered. The draft EIA will now be further refined by the experts in the coming weeks, after which it will be submitted to the Flemish Government, together with the official permit application, by 8 July at the latest. At that time, the final document will be available to anyone interested.

Curious to find out more, but missed our digital session? You can watch a recording (in Dutch and French) here: 

What is Brussels Airport doing to reduce its impact on the surrounding area?

For Brussels Airport, sustainable growth, with attention to the socio-economic role of the airport and the environment, is very important. For years, the airport has been taking action to limit the environmental impact and will continue to focus strongly on this in the coming years. 

With strong noise-based differentiation (currently x3) in airport charges, Brussels Airport has encouraged airlines since 2016 to deploy more modern, and therefore quieter and cleaner, aircraft. This has already resulted in the fact that today 1 in 3 flights are carried out with the most modern aircraft. As of April this year, new tariffs will apply that not only are even more differentiated (up to x20), but which will also take account of nitrogen emissions. Regarding ground noise, efforts being made include, for example, single engine taxiing, the introduction of electrical ground handling equipment and the supply of power to the gates, so that the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit can be switched off quicker.

Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) have been available at Brussels Airport since 1 January and we are now looking at how we can advocate both the collection of used cooking oils for the production of SAF as well as the use of SAF. Brussels Airport is also strongly committed to multimodal accessibility and modal shift. For example, in the past two years, Brussels Airport saw the arrival of the Ringtrambus and the Flibco bus services, as well as the connection to the F3 cycle highway. In a few years' time, the airport will also be connected to the tram network and further efforts will be made on cycling infrastructure and alternatives, such as carpooling and car sharing for staff.

Thanks to investments in renewable energy, Brussels Airport has been CO2 neutral for its own operations since 2018. We are now working hard to become 'net zero carbon', by 2050 at the latest, for example by investing even more in renewable energy (e.g. additional solar parks) and fully electrifying the vehicle fleet. Brussels Airport is also taking the lead in innovation and development with Stargate, a project that was initiated by Brussels Airport and is co-financed by the European Commission as part of the European Green Deal, to pioneer innovations and initiatives for a sustainable future for the aviation industry in Europe.