U.S. airports have a lot of ground to make up if they want to compete with the 92 European airports certified for working towards or already having reduced their carbon emissions.

Airports Council International introduced its carbon emissions reduction certification program in North America last year and so far only five U.S. airports, including Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, committed to improving their carbon footprint. European airports have an advantage as the program has been available on that continent since it began in 2009, but interest in the U.S. still doesn’t appear overwhelming.

A group of global airports committed to combating the carbon emission problem in 2007 when they passed a resolution at the Airports Council International World Annual Congress & Assembly. Airports that signed on committed to reducing carbon emissions from ground service equipment, vehicle fleets, electrical power and pre-conditioned air supply to aircraft at gates. They also agreed to install energy-efficient infrastructure.

Some 125 airports in more than 40 countries have earned various levels of carbon certification, meaning they are at least working on reducing their footprints, since 2009. Some 1.7 billion passengers travel through these airports each year (27.5% of all global air passenger traffic). The four categories for certification are:

  • Mapping: The airport has measured the impact of its carbon emissions footprint;
  • Reduction: The airport has made some reductions to its carbon footprint;
  • Optimization: The airport has engaged with others at its facility, such as airlines, to work on reducing each entity’s carbon footprint, and
  • Neutral: The airport is considered carbon neutral.

Since June 2014, 36 airports have mapped their carbon footprints, 47 have reduced emissions, 22 engaged with others to reduce their carbon emissions, and 20 airports, all located in Europe, are considered carbon neutral. Europe accounts for most of the clean-air progress and Asia-Pacific follows with 25 airports earning one of the certification levels. This amounts to a 212,460-ton reduction of CO2 since last year, the equivalent to the annual CO2 sequestered by 1,495 acres of forest.

The following chart provides examples of various major airports that have earned one of the certification levels:

Global Airports that Achieved A Carbon-Reduction Certification Level

Certification LevelSampling of Airports Awarded this Certification
MappingBarcelona-El Prat, Abu Dhabi International, Dubai International, Lisbon Portela, Vienna International, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
ReductionSeattle-Tacoma International, Dublin Airport, Madrid-Barajas, Kuala Lumpur International, Amman Queen Alia International, Helsinki Airport
OptimizationBombay Chhatrapati Shivaji, Delhi Indira Gandhi, Hong Kong International, Seoul Incheon, London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle
NeutralAmsterdam Schiphol, Oslo Airport, Rome Fiumicino, Milan–Malpensa, Stockholm Arlanda, Venice Marco Polo

Source: Airports Council International Europe

Photo Credit: Amsterdam's Schipol Airport is one of the world's 20 airports to receive a carbon neutral certification by Airports Council International. Shirley de Jong / Flickr