Paris-Charles de Gaulle expansion scrapped over environmental concerns

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The French government canceled the project to build a new terminal, T4, for Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport (CDG), citing environmental concerns. The construction of the fourth terminal previously planned to be finished by 2037 would have increased the capacity of Paris’ largest and Europe’s second-busiest airport by 40 million passengers per year. The cost of the expansion was estimated between €7 and €9 billion.

The project was no longer relevant in the light of environmental issues and air traffic being brought down by the pandemic, French minister of ecological transition Barbara Pompili told Le Monde. “The government has asked ADP [Aéroports de Paris, Charles de Gaulle’s operator – ed. note] to abandon its project and present it with a new one, more consistent with its objectives of combating climate change and protecting the environment.”

The cancellation came after a bill called “Climate and Resilience” was presented to the French government on February 10, 2021. If supported by the Parliament, the law will forbid the creation or extension of airports from 2022 “if they result in a net increase, after compensation, in greenhouse gas emissions.” The bill also includes the prohibition of domestic flights if a train can be used as an alternative in less than 2.5 hours.

Three guidelines were given for the new expansion project: easier access by train to allow a reduction of domestic flights, a reduction in energy consumption, and the adaptation of the infrastructure to hydrogen and electric planes. 

For this last objective, Airbus, ADP, Air France-KLM, and Paris authorities launched a call for expressions of interest “to explore the opportunities generated by hydrogen in Paris airports with the aim to decarbonize air transport activities.” The project will explore solutions for the storage of gaseous and liquid hydrogen, the diversification of its usage over various sectors of airport operation, and the recycling of hydrogen. “Airports have a key role to play in enabling that transition, starting today, and we hope that this open innovation initiative will foster the development of creative projects and solutions,” commented Jean-Brice Dumont, the Executive Vice President Engineering at Airbus.

The development of the hydrogen sector was one of the conditions for France’s support plan for the aerospace industry, announced by the French Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire on June 9, 2020. Out of the €15 billion allocated to help alleviate the financial impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, nearly €1.5 billion in public aid over three years were dedicated to helping “the decarbonization of world air traffic.”

In September 2020, Airbus unveiled three hydrogen-powered concepts the company was working on. “This is a historic moment for the commercial aviation sector as a whole and we intend to play a leading role in the most important transition this industry has ever seen,” Guillaume Faury commented at the time.


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