Airport Show
13 - 15 May 2025

Held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Dubai Airports, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group

Airports make strides reducing their carbon footprint

In the dawn of a new decade, the aviation industry has recognised its own role in adding to global carbon emissions and is taking increasingly determined steps to reduce its ecological impact across its various operations. Individual airports and airlines are leading the charge in order to both display their accepted responsibility and also as a point of market differentiation in today’s more environment-conscious consumer age.


While innovations in bio-fuel and flight path optimisation technologies are putting a big dent in CO2 emissions in the air, airports are also taking the fight to global warming on the ground as well, by tackling persistent sources of ground-based GHG (greenhouse gases). These efforts are going global as 288 hubs worldwide have engaged in a global carbon accreditation programme that registered a collective CO2 reduction of more than 320,000 tonnes or 4.9% in 2019. We are now at the point as the end of 2019 nears where under the scheme 61 airports (including three airports in India) have been designated as carbon neutral.


In terms of specific examples of CO2-saving innovations, Munich Airport was recognised earlier in 2019 for its dedication to CO2 reductions by topping the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) charts and outranking all participating European airports. Munich’s innovations in this area include switching to energy-saving LED lighting for its buildings and ramp areas, saving a combined 4,600 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year with this single change. The airport is also transitioning to the use of electric vehicles for its ground fleet, replacing over 120 diesel and petrol-driven vehicles, while at the same time installing 85 charging stations for electric cars with another 200 scheduled for installation in the near future. Illumination, a key fixture in any major airport operating around the clock, is becoming a central focus for CO2-saving initiatives. Industry analysts estimate that switching out traditional halogen-illuminated airport signs for LED versions can provide CO2 reductions of up to 89%.


The intended future of the industry to tackle CO2 emissions permanently can be seen in its pledges to make sustainable operational changes that will result in either significant reductions or even the complete elimination of GHG. Again, the start of a new decade is often viewed as an appropriate time to make such commitments and this is proving to be the case for the coming 2020s. Towards the end of this year, over 200 members of ACI Europe, the trade association for European airports, committed to a pledge to produce net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is twice as ambitious as the recent ICAO pronouncement (given at roughly the same time) that the global aviation industry would halve CO2 emissions by the same deadline, though the ACI pledge only applies to airport operations under their control, and doesn’t include emissions from aircraft.


Regardless, pledges of this nature are emblematic of the fundamental shift in attitude occurring in airport operators’ minds. The battle for the future of the industry isn’t just being fought in terms of servicing expanding passenger numbers, it’s now necessary to do so with a significantly reduced, rather than increased, ecological impact.


This article was created in association with Airport Show on 24-26 May 2021.


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