Airports and CO2 – carbon neutrality is going global

As the 39th ICAO General Assembly gathered in Montreal to address emissions from international aviation through a Global Market Based Measure (GMBM), the airport industry has once again demonstrated that it is assuming its responsibility in curbing climate change and contributing to achieving the goal of sustainable and low-emissions aviation. Report by Marina Bylinsky.

In the days before the 39th ICAO General Assembly, the ACI World and ACI North America Annual General Assembly also took place in Montreal, where the annual results of Airport Carbon Accreditation year 7 (June 2015 – May 2016) were released. The announcement highlighted a continued growth in the number of certified airports, as well as a sound carbon performance. In addition, it was the occasion to celebrate a very special moment for the programme – the achievement of carbon neutrality by airports in North America and Asia-Pacific, bringing the number of carbon neutral airports worldwide to 26.

Airports and CO2 – carbon neutrality is going global

In the days before the 39th ICAO General Assembly, the ACI World and ACI North America Annual General Assembly also took place in Montreal, where the annual results of Airport Carbon Accreditation year 7 (June 2015 – May 2016) were released.

At the end of programme year 7, 156 airports had reached the Airport Carbon Accredited status. This represents a growth of 25% compared to the previous year, when 125 had been accredited. These airports have collectively shown a reduction of 206,090 tonnes CO2 – a volume of emissions typically released for the energy supply of 86,000 households over one year. Most importantly, certified airports show an improving carbon efficiency of their operations. Thus, whereas their average emissions per passenger have amounted to 2.31 kg CO2 in programme year 6, they have dropped to 2.10 kg CO2 this year, representing a reduction of 7%. This confirms an overall downwards trend of emissions per passenger since the launch of Airport Carbon Accreditation, whereas at the same time, the number of certified airports has been growing:

Airports and CO2 – carbon neutrality is going global-2

These results highlight that Airport Carbon Accredited airports are engaged in long-term strategies to achieve more environment-friendly operations, rather than one-off climate initiatives. This is all the more impressive as it’s happening in spite of an increasing demand for air travel.

Airports and CO2 – carbon neutrality is going global-2

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is the first airport in North America to reach carbon neutral status. Dallas Fort Worth has been covering 100% of its electricity consumption through the purchase of renewable energy.

While the new Airport Carbon Accreditation year has only started in June 2016, it has already been marked by tremendous new developments – in particular in the area of carbon neutrality. The most recently accredited carbon neutral airports are all pioneers of their kind: in Europe, Nice Côte d’Azur Airport became the first carbon neutral airport in France. Meanwhile, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is the first airport in North America to reach carbon neutral status and Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport is the first one in Asia-Pacific. This means that carbon neutrality has become reality for airports in different world regions. While being very different from one another, these airports share a common understanding of carbon neutrality as requiring an innovative approach to both the supply and the use of energy at an airport.

These airports have been investing in the use of renewable energy: both Nice Airport and Dallas Fort Worth have been covering 100% of their electricity consumption through the purchase of renewable energy. Delhi Airport is directly generating renewable electricity on-site through 7.84 MW solar power plants, which have been the first solar installation of this scale in India. These airports also support the use of alternative fuels or electricity for ground vehicles, and provide airlines with the possibility to use fixed ground power instead of auxiliary power units. In addition to this careful selection of energy sources, they have also been reducing their energy consumption through innovative lighting, air conditioning and heating systems, embedded in terminal buildings favouring energy savings.

Terminal 3 of Delhi Airport is a LEED Gold certified green building, enabling among others to optimise the use of daylight. Nice and Dallas Fort Worth airports have been implementing dynamic systems allowing them to adjust lighting or air conditioning to the demand, e.g. through dedicated sensors.

With airports being critical nodes in the global air transport network, the adoption of this comprehensive approach to carbon neutrality by airports in different continents is a very encouraging and promising trend for the achievement of carbon neutral growth of aviation as of 2020. By doing so, airports will also play an important role in the functioning of the upcoming GMBM for aviation, by providing an efficient and innovative infrastructure for aircraft operations and thus supporting airlines in reducing their emissions – wherever they fly to.

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