Airports, aviation industry charged on cleaner, greener sustainable sector

Engineer Saleh Dunoma, FAAN Managing Director

With global passenger traffic expected to double to 16.97 billion by 2034, it is more important than ever for airports and the aviation industry at large, to continue to work towards a cleaner, greener and more environmentally sustainable sector.

The Director General of Airports Council International (ACI), Angela Gittens stated this in her May Message to members, saying ‘’ACI and our members are fully committed to this mission, as recognized by the Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) Programme’s  growth year after year. As of date, ACA boasts 266 participating airports, reaching 44% of global traffic and 49 carbon neutral airports.

‘’The programme, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, continues to gain popularity because it recognizes that airports can address their CO2 emissions in a variety of ways, from reducing aircraft taxi times, to implementing green landing procedures. The emphasis is on airports reducing their own energy requirements, and on working with airlines, air traffic management and stakeholders on and around the airport to reduce their emissions. Lastly, airports can use high quality carbon credits to offset their remaining emissions to become carbon neutral.’’

Gittens noted that ACI offers airports a free tool, the Airport Carbon Emission Reporting Tool v.5 Acert to help them measure and manage their CO2 emissions.

‘’Further, ACI offers airports a free tool, the Airport Carbon Emission Reporting Tool v.5 Acert, to help them measure and manage their CO2 emissions. Initially designed on behalf of Transport Canada, the tool can be used by all airports even those without an  environment expert. As well, the outputs from ACERT can then be used as a basis for application to the ACA programme.

‘’And we have another tool: the recently released Airport Ground Energy Simulator (AGES-S), that helps airports quantify the environmental and economic benefits of reducing the use of aircraft auxiliary power units, APUs, by replacing them with a more efficient ground energy system. The tool was designed by Zurich Airport to help our members create business cases for investment.

‘’Indeed, alternative energy makes good business sense. As recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme this year, Cochin International Airport in India became the first airport to be powered solely on solar energy. They also became the first greenfield airport to be built under public-private partnership in India, demonstrating how relevant private investment has become to support airports’ eco-friendly initiatives, said she.

On waste management, Gittens has this to say: ‘’Waste management is another big environmental issue to airports worldwide; and they have been working creatively to reduce, recycle and treat their waste. The Waste Management e-publication, part of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Eco Airport Toolkit e-collection compiled several case studies on best practices of Waste Management, including Circular Economy around airports worldwide. From competition among tenants, to working in collaboration with local authorities to find alternatives to landfill and incineration, our members have also started the adoption of a “Circular Economy,” principle such as the Schiphol “light as a service” project.

‘’The Eco Airport Toolkit has 3 other e-publications on Renewable Energy, Environment Management Systems and Eco-design of Airport Buildings.

‘’Airports are increasingly looking beyond their boundaries to reduce passengers’ environmental footprint. This is done in cooperation with other stakeholders through “green mobility” initiatives. Efficient and clean vehicles and transportation links to and from urban centers must be further incentivized if we are to broaden our concept of airport environmental management and work in real collaboration with our communities to build a more sustainable future.’

‘’On the topic of community commitments, ACI’s views have been highly influential at ICAO Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) regarding setting the course for greater engagement. To obtain and maintain their license to operate and grow, airports must be aligned with the needs of their surrounding communities, for whom they also serve as generators of economic and social benefits. The role of airports is pivotal in the long-term development of the aviation industry as a whole. 

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