ACI reports on net zero progress at COP26

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ACI World and ACI Europe have announced several key developments at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, UK, including the launch of new green initiatives, reporting on the progress of its net zero carbon emissions plans for 2050 and awarding Airport Carbon Accreditations for multiple airports globally.

To reaffirm its net zero 2050 emissions goal, ACI Europe provided a series of roadmaps and accompanying guidance which will soon be followed by its new worldwide Airport Action Plans initiative. As a result of these plans, 94 European airports are set to achieve net zero carbon by 2030, including 10 airports that have already reached net zero.

Responding to the organization’s sustainable focus, the CEO of AGS Airports, Derek Provan, announced at the event plans for a solar farm at Glasgow Airport. This initiative will give Glasgow Airport the ability to generate enough power for the entire airport campus and neighboring businesses. This is equivalent to powering 20% of homes in Glasgow city – approximately 52,000 households.

Discussing the importance of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), Provan pointed to new aircraft energy systems and the Scottish carrier Loganair, which plans to trial a zero-carbon, hydrogen fuel cell-powered flying demonstrator by September 2022. If trials are successful, this could see the world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger flights take off in Orkney in late 2023.

Provan said, “Aviation is a force for good and through our sustainability strategy we have set out how AGS will balance the undoubted economic and social benefits of aviation with our climate change responsibilities. As a group, we are committed to building on our carbon neutrality status by achieving net zero by the mid-2030s and, like the wider industry, we have set out a clear plan on how will meet that goal. All of our electricity is already from 100% renewable sources, however, the creation of the solar farm at Glasgow Airport will allow us to become self-sustaining by generating enough power for both the airport and our neighbors.”

At the event, ACI also awarded the Airport Carbon Accreditation to Italy’s Milan Linate Airport and three Japanese airports operated by Kansai Airports Group – Kansai International Airport, Osaka International Airport and Kobe Airport.

SEA Airports (Società per azioni Esercizi Aeroportuali), the operator of Milan Linate, achieved the ACI Level 4+ ‘Transition’ accreditation and Airport Carbon Accreditation certificate for its commitment to having net zero CO2 emissions by 2030. The airport reduced its controlled emissions (scope one and two) by 10% in 2019 by improving the efficiency of its air conditioning and lighting, electrifying its vehicle fleet, and looking into energy recovery. Milan Linate also set a target for scope three emissions, with projects such as the supply of electrical ground power to aircrafts, promotion and facilitation of access to SAF for airlines, partnering with the local municipality on the extension of a metro line to connect the airport to the city, carpooling for airport employees and electrifying ground support vehicles.

Kansai Airports Group was awarded the Level 4 ‘Transformation’ certification, making its three airports the first in Japan to receive this level. The group is carrying out a wide range of environmental activities based on four key themes: response to climate change, resource usage, environmental harmony and environmental management. The group will continue to reduce its emissions by setting up a framework and enabling environmentally minded businesses to participate in airport operations. All three airports are also committed to pursuing environmental practices in harmony with the local communities they serve.

To qualify, the certification requires airports to align their carbon reduction targets with the emissions pathways derived from the IPCC’s Paris Agreement objectives. These are the submission of an extended carbon footprint, as well as providing proof of more effective and goal-oriented stakeholder engagement to promote carbon reduction across the entire airport ecosystem.

Highlighting the importance of airport climate action, Niclas Sveningsen, manager of Global Climate Action for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said, “COP26 is a crucial steppingstone towards fully enabling the Paris Agreement. The contribution of real-life climate action towards net zero, such as ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation, is invaluable to support the realization of the goals of the Paris Agreement and for the success of COP26. For several years now, even during the global pandemic, I have seen ACI tirelessly moving forward by engaging, inspiring and evolving their support to climate action in airports. This is a good example of leadership.”

In his talk on November 10 at the COP26 Climate Action Hub, Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s director general, took listeners (both in-person and online) on a global tour of some of the most ecologically robust airport initiatives. Featured on this list was Vancouver International Airport and its aspirations to be the greenest airport in the world; and Delhi Indira Gandhi International, the first airport in Asia-Pacific to reach the new Airport Carbon Accreditation Level 4+, with a planned taxiway that will save 55,000 tones of CO2 annually.

Jankovec also discussed Aéroport de La Réunion’s groundbreaking architectural designs that override the need for air conditioning by harnessing wind power, and Aeropuerto Ecológico de Galápagos, the world’s first ecological airport which draws 100% of its energy from renewable sources.

Jankovec said, “COP26 represents a turning point, a now-or-never. Not for rhetoric and promises, but for actions. And these actions should be tangible, transparent, measurable and progressive. I am incredibly proud to stand here at COP and speak on behalf of an industry that faces some of the greatest challenges to decarbonize. Yet at the same time, it shows some of the greatest ambition. Because flying is not the enemy, carbon is. Air travel is part of our economic, cultural and human experience and it’s incumbent upon us all to ensure that is continued sustainably. The airport industry leads the way in transforming our sector into one which will be truly fit for purpose for future generations.”

ACI World director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira said, “These global examples are a testament to the innovation and determination of airports in meeting the greatest challenge of our time. And the momentum around the world is stronger than ever. ACI member airports, who committed in June 2021 to reaching net zero by 2050 for their own emissions, will be key players in facilitating this transition so aviation can continue to deliver social and economic benefits to the world. This global goal is important for a global industry, and ACI was the first international aviation organization to set a global net zero target for 2050. The entire aviation ecosystem needs to work together with the support of governments to make this goal a reality.”

ACI World also released its 2021 World Airport Traffic Report (WATR) on November 9, with data showing the lasting impact of Covid-19 on air transportation demand. Covid-19 caused a 5.6 billion reduction in passengers worldwide in 2020 and is forecast to remove an additional 4.6 billion passengers by the end of 2021, compared with 2019 volumes. Global passenger traffic in 2021 is expected to reach only half of what it was in 2019, totaling only 4.6 billion of the 9.2 billion passengers served two years ago. The world’s airports also saw a sharp reduction in global aircraft movements in 2020, decreasing by 39.5% to reach only 62 million.

Due to international travel restrictions, domestic passenger traffic continues to recover faster than the international market, especially in China and in the USA. Globally, domestic traffic will continue to increase in 2021 to reach more than 3.1 billion passengers by the end of the year, which is 58.5% of that achieved in 2019.

However, the Asia-Pacific region has recently shown signs of a slower than expected recovery. This is also due to many countries remaining closed to international travel, inevitably impacting all regions – as Asia-Pacific has been the main region driving growth in the global air transportation industry over the last decade. Before the pandemic, four of the busiest airports in Asia-Pacific were Chinese; now seven are Chinese, six of which are new to the list.

However, many Asia-Pacific international hubs suffered major losses due to their dependence on international passenger traffic and did not make the top 10 in 2020, such as Beijing (PEK), the busiest airport in 2019, and Tokyo (HND), the second-busiest airport in 2019.

Similarly, the USA is now home to only three of the top 10 busiest airports in the world. Traffic at Atlanta (ATL) – which had been the world leader for passenger traffic since 2000 – fell 61.2% in 2020, causing it to cede the top spot to Guangzhou (CAN) as the world’s busiest airport for passengers. Nevertheless, Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), the world’s 10th-busiest airport in 2019, moved up to fourth-busiest in 2020.

Oliveira said, “The impact of Covid-19 has completely altered the airport sector as seen in the busiest passenger and cargo traffic rankings. The 2021 World Airport Traffic Report provides in-depth analyses into the impact of the pandemic on airport passenger, movement and cargo traffic from a global and regional perspective – enabling airport stakeholders to make data-driven decisions as airports and the aviation sector work towards a sustained long-term recovery.

“The economic value driven by airports cannot be understated when it comes to facilitating business and leisure travel, trade and the subsequent GDP, jobs, taxes and associated social benefits. Air traffic is the lifeblood of the airport business, highlighting the necessity of government action to promote safe travel – including a coordinated and risk-based approach to testing and vaccination – rather than enforcing full-scale restrictions and blanket measures.”

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