During the presentation of the Airport Carbon Accreditation program at COP21, in Paris, the European airport industry committed to raising the number of carbon neutral airports in Europe to 50 by 2030.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that aviation’s total CO2 emissions account for 2% of global emissions’ impact on climate change. Of that figure, airports’ own operations account for up to 5%.

This latest commitment reflects a desire by European airports to lessen the impact of aviation on climate change as part of global climate goals set under the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG).

There are currently 20 airports certified as carbon neutral, which include all 10 airports operated by Swedavia AB in Sweden, Avinor Oslo and Trondheim airports in Norway, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands, Milan Malpensa, Milan Linate, and Venice Airport in Italy and Ankara Esenboga Airport and ICF Antalya Airport in Turkey.

Following the announcement of this new commitment, made at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change-International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance panel session at COP21, Augustin de Romanet, President of ACI EUROPE & CEO of Aéroports de Paris said:

“Europe’s airports are fully behind the objective of keeping global warming below 2°C— and they are urging States to come to a global, robust and legally binding agreement in Paris.”

He added: “For airports, carbon management is as much about being at the forefront of corporate and social responsibility as it is about business continuity. Climate change poses a significant risk to the airport industry—changes in rainfall, temperature variations, sea-level rise, changes in wind patterns—all of these have potentially severe implications for our industry, for the wider air transport sector and for European connectivity.”

Airport Carbon Accreditation 

The European airport industry originally committed to reducing its carbon emissions in 2008. To ensure measurable progress, airports collectively launched a carbon management standard Airport Carbon Accreditation program in Europe in June 2009.

Airport Carbon Accreditation certifies airports at 4 different levels: Mapping, Reduction, Optimization and Neutrality.

The certification is independently administered by WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff and overseen by an independent Advisory Board including representatives from ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation), UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program), the European Commission, ECAC (European Civil Aviation Conference), EUROCONTROL, the US Federal Aviation Authority, the Aviation & Environment Federation and Manchester Metropolitan University.

It has been institutionally endorsed and praised by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) and the European Commission (EC).

There are 93 European airports—which serve 64% of annual European passenger traffic—certified under Airport Carbon Accreditation.

This accreditation program has extended to other world regions. Over the past twelve months, 137 airports around the world—serving 31% of global passenger traffic—have earned Airport Carbon Accredited status.

The full text of the ACI EUROPE Resolution for 50 Carbon Neutral Airports by 2030, can be seen here.

Airlines Do Their Part

The air transport industry has set targets to address CO2 levels that include:

  • An average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5% per year from 2009 to 2020
  • A cap on net aviation CO2 emissions from 2020 (carbon-neutral growth)
  • A reduction in net aviation CO2 emissions of 50% by 2050, relative to 2005 levels

Many airlines around have also committed themselves to helping to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment by reducing carbon footprint in their operations, including through the purchase of newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft. However, as a global industry, aviation faces challenges in universal compliance in line with the different positions of sovereign nations on the standards to reduce CO2 emissions.

Paul Steele, IATA Senior VP, Member and External Relations and Corporate Secretary tell us of the proceedings at the Paris Climate Change Conference:

“We are looking forward to a successful outcome of the talks, and a comprehensive agreement which recognizes the primary role of ICAO in addressing aviation’s environmental impacts. An agreement in Paris would also help resolve the developed vs developing country climate standoff which would facilitate ongoing discussions on a global market-based measure at ICAO.”

Photo Credit: Passengers in front of the departures board at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Associated Press