The combination of progress and environmental sustainability is one of the main challenges of our time. The recent agreement between the Government of Spain and the Government of the Generalitat of Catalonia for the development of a hub intercontinental at the Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport represents a paradigmatic case of the search for this balance.
A very important part of Catalan society has been claiming for decades a large airport hub for international connections. The opportunity to obtain it, at last, has arrived. The growth of long-haul intercontinental routes at Barcelona airport has been extraordinary in the last 15 years and, when we overcome the toxic consequences of the pandemic, their demand will continue to increase. However, in order to accommodate new long-haul routes, the airport needs more capacity, that is, more takeoffs and landings per hour, and a new terminal (satellite T1), which will be ready in 2031.
Leaving aside the powerful economic effect of Aena’s 1,700 million euro investment per se, the consolidation of hub Barcelona will mean prosperity: it will allow Catalan citizens to fly directly to a large number of cities in the world and will make it easier for Catalonia to attract highly qualified workers, investments from multinational companies, research centers and major international events, which will create many dozen of thousands of new jobs. It would be appreciated if people who strongly criticize the draft hub they will explain precisely what specific alternative projects, not evanescent, they propose for Barcelona and Catalonia with such capacity to generate jobs and wealth in the coming decades.
From an environmental perspective, it is clear that the proposed project is very demanding. Aena’s commitment, which will be evaluated by the Government of Spain, the Government of the Generalitat and the European Commission, is ambitious: after the expansion of the airport, the Delta del Llobregat will have 25% more protected space, a greater guarantee of environmental preservation and will become, unlike today, a space for the enjoyment of citizenship. On the website of the European Commission you can review the many countries of the European Union, particularly Germany, which in recent decades have successfully developed ports, airports or river works with modifications and compensation of protected areas. Why can’t Spain and Catalonia do just as well in a capital infrastructure like the Josep Tarradellas Airport?
Finally, greenhouse gas emissions from air transport represent 4% of the total in the world, less than a sixth of those from road transport. History proves that the aeronautical industry has been able to solve all the technological challenges that have arisen since its inception, in terms of safety, range and efficiency. Thanks, among other factors, to biofuels and hydrogen, the technological transition of aviation to a paradigm without emissions will be a reality in a few decades. Aena’s airports, for example, will emit 94% less per passenger in 2030.
In short, our descendants deserve an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable world and, from this perspective, the development of the hub Barcelona intercontinental seems a must.
Maurici Lucena Betriu he is president of Aena.