So what kind of concrete actions are airports undertaking to genuinely reduce their CO2 emissions? With so much happening on an airport site, there are many factors, influences and systems which can contribute to the carbon footprint of the airport. Here is a selection of some of the most popular ways that airports are achieving reductions in their CO2 emissions.
On an airport site, there are many vehicles facilitating airside services such as runway and apron maintenance, ground handling, and passenger transport, all of which only operate within the perimeter of the airport. A concerted effort is being made by airports big and small (including airports in Amsterdam, Bologna, Cork, Dublin, Oslo, Trondheim, Zurich and many more) to replace these mainly diesel-powered vehicles with electric, hybrid or gas powered ones. The distances travelled by these vehicles may be small when compared with the average road vehicle, but by moving to more sustainable sources, the CO2 emissions associated with on-site transport are falling.
As public spaces, airports have to provide well-lit facilities and naturally this is a substantial part of their energy consumption. In recent years, the benefits of LED (Light-Emitted Diode) technology have led a lot of airports to invest in replacing their lighting systems with LEDs, resulting in a significant drop in their energy consumption (and associated CO2 emissions). For example, lighting at part of Helsinki Airport improved and energy consumption decreased by 85% when they replaced 2,100 old light fixtures with LED lighting.
A growing number of airports are now seeking to become more energy independent and more than that, to use sustainable energy sources such as wind, hydro and solar. Athens International Airport was one of the pioneers in harnessing the abundant sun in its location, through its €20 million investment in a photovoltaic park. The park produces approximately 11 million kWh a year - that’s 20% of the airport operator’s energy needs (equivalent to a reduction of 10,000 tonnes of CO2). Other airports in Europe and Asia-Pacific are making similar investments, each helping to lower their part of the industry’s carbon footprint.
While rail intermodality is now a must for capital city airports, we are already seeing several airports in Europe which are working with their taxi partners, to lower the taxi-related CO2 emissions at the airport site. Stockholm-Arlanda was one of the first, by giving exclusive priority to hybrid and electric cars – a move which quickly saw all the airport taxis voluntarily move to these technologies. At Amsterdam-Schiphol, the airport company revised its taxi partnership, making cleaner taxis as a key objective. The airport is now served by a substantial fleet of 167 zero-emission Tesla Model S taxis.
Air transport is collaborative effort between airports, airlines, ground handlers, air traffic controllers and others. One action that is helping lower CO2 emissions is the implementation of something called Airport Collaborative Decision-Making (A-CDM). By sharing real-time updates on operations, over 15 major European airports including Heathrow, Paris CDG, Frankfurt, Munich and Brussels are lowering waiting times for landings and takeoffs, resulting in less fuel burn, less CO2 emissions and better punctuality.
A growing number of airports are now seeking to become more energy independent and more than that, to use sustainable energy sources such as wind, hydro and solar. Paris CDG and Keflavik Airport in Iceland are examples of airports which use geothermal energy to power their facilities – an entirely natural and sustainable energy source. In 2011, Aéroports de Paris commissioned a geothermal power plant at Paris-Orly, and a biomass power plant at Paris-Charles de Gaulle in 2012, significantly increasing its production of renewable energies. To date, the geothermal energy plant at Paris-Orly has enabled Aéroports de Paris to reduce GHG emissions by 9,000 tonnes of CO2 per year and the biomass plant by 18,000 tonnes of CO2.