Article / 16 Nov, 2017
Journey to a Climate Neutral Future Starts at the Airport

UN Climate Change News, Bonn, Nov 10 –  Airports have been taking a lead role in reducing the emissions from aviation and can help further to bring down the carbon footprint of a sector which is still growing rapidly, airport managers said at a UN Climate Change secretariat’s Climate Neutral Now event at COP23.

Aviation represents about 2% of all human-induced CO2 emissions and the sector has established the long-term goal of reducing its total net CO2 emissions to 50% by 2050, compared with 2005 levels.

While airport emissions contribute only about 5% of the total aviation sector contribution, Michael Gill, Executive Director of the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) said airports are a key part of the solution and cited two examples.

First, by controlling airplanes emissions on the ground through good organization so that planes use less taxi driving from runways to the terminals, or less hovering over airports waiting for landing permission at busy times.

Second, by providing infrastructure for biofuel supply. Biofuels from feedstocks such as used cooking oil or forestry residue can be up to 80% less carbon intensive than conventional fuels and are one of the main pillars for the sustainable development of the aviation industry.

Mr Gill noted that airlines CO2 efficiency has already improved by 50% since 1990 – meaning flights we take today will produce half of the CO2 emissions of the same flights around 25 years ago.

Reducing Emissions in Aviation’s Own Interest

Engaging in climate action is not only a moral choice; it makes good business sense and is in the own interest of all aviation stakeholders. Extreme weather events and temperatures also put airplanes and airports at risk.

Mr. Faiz Khan, Executive Chairman of Airports Fiji Limited, underlined that sea-level rise linked to climate change is a major threat to airports located in coastal areas. One of the event’s moderators, Olav Mosvold Larsen, Senior Advisor at Avinor, said the problem is particularly hard for small island states like COP23 presiding nation Fiji, because they depend highly on aviation to reach the islands.

Aviation represents about 2% of all human induced emissions

Setting the Right Guidelines

Mr. Olivier Jankovec, Director General at Airport Council Europe (ACI Europe), presented the voluntary carbon accreditation scheme launched by ACI Europe 2009, the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme

This scheme provides a common framework for airports that want to measure and reduce their carbon emissions, with the ultimate goal to become carbon neutral. Less than 10 years after its launch, 201 airports from all continents are accredited, 35 of which on the highest level ‘Carbon-Neutrality’. ACI Europe is committed to have 100 carbon neutral airports by 2030.

Ms. Eglė Lauraitytė, General Counsel for the Lithuanian Airports Group, emphasized the need for measurable incentives to optimize carbon emissions of an airport, which is provided by the programme.

Energy Efficiency, Reducing Direct Emissions

After mapping all possible emissions sources ranging from energy use to on-site vehicles fleets or waste/waste-water management, airports strive to reduce them through a variety of means.

Fiji airports work on efficient building designs, including more use of natural light. Stephanie Bolt, Sustainability Manager at Adelaide airport, showed the efficient LED lights at the airfields and reported about the airport’s on-site solar power plant. She also illustrated the airport’s unique airfield irrigation project by waste-water which also cools down the air in the vicinity with no fuel used.

Ms. Lauraitytė explained the current need of Vilnius airport to expand its terminal in a temporary structure, and presented a circular economy project to build a new terminal which can be dismantled and reused by other airports with the same need.

Engaging Customers to Reduce Emissions

Eventually, airports also aim at reducing emissions created by their passengers. One of Adelaide Airport’s goals is to enable passengers to use more climate-friendly travel to the airport, for example by having “green taxis”.

Closer bus stops and a special bus lane were put in place in Vilnius Airport to encourage passengers to use public transport. Mr. Khan highlighted Fiji Airports’ efforts to partner with airlines to develop more efficient arrival and departure flight procedures with lower track miles and lower fuel burn.

The event underlined that the sector has a responsibility to act and it needs all its stakeholders to work closely together to achieve this aim, which also means learning from each other’s efforts.

The co- moderators, Olav Mosvold Larsen, Senior Advisor at Avinor and Leonie Dobbie, Head of Sustainable Aviation and Airports at WSP and Administrator of the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, designed the session that showcased particular airports’ climate work.