200+ European airports target net zero CO2 emissions by 2050

The European airport industry association ACI EUROPE reports that more than 40 per cent of its membership is targeting net zero carbon emissions within the next three decades.

ACI EUROPE published the progress report on the occasion of the UN Global Climate Action Summit taking place in New York. This followed its landmark resolution committing its 500 members to reach net zero by 2050 for the carbon emissions under their control.

It said this commitment came alongside a call for the entire aviation sector to develop a long-term joint ambition & vision towards a net zero carbon emissions air transport system. This is needed to supplement the significant efforts already being made by the aviation sector under ICAO’s Basket of Measures, including CORSIA – which will also be in the spotlight in the week ahead at the ICAO Assembly in Montreal.

The NetZero2050 pledge is further backed up so far by 203 airports run by more than 47 airport operators across 42 European countries – with each of them individually committing to the same objective. Based on Europe’s airports current traffic volumes (2.34 billion passengers welcomed in 2018) and estimated carbon footprint, this net zero commitment will eliminate a total of 3.46 million tons of annual CO2 emissions as of 2050.

Olivier Jankovec, director general ACI EUROPE commented: “Our NetZero2050 commitment builds on a strong record of carbon management & reduction by the European airport industry, that has been well documented over the past decade. Crucially, it means the European airport industry is aligning with the latest scientific evidence, the need to secure a +1.5°C future and the Paris Agreement.”

Niclas Svenningsen, head of the “Climate Neutral Now” initiative of United Nations Climate Change agency said: “As a new decade looms large on the horizon, the need for step change, for significant action is getting louder by the day. The IPCC Special Report from last October is unequivocal about the need to achieve net zero emissions by mid-century. We at UN Climate Change have been following the progress of the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme for many years now. With this new commitment, we are encouraged to see so many European airports voluntarily set their ambitions to become Net Zero by 2050. There is still a lot more to do, a lot about air transport that needs to change – but this is a promising step in the right direction.”

The NetZero2050 commitment is an integral part of the ACI EUROPE’s comprehensive Sustainability Strategy for Airports. The strategy addresses a wide range of environmental but also social and economic issues. In this way, it equips European airports with an industry-wide framework and guidance, enabling them to embed sustainability at the core of their business strategy.

There are already three net zero airports in Europe: Luleå, Ronneby and Visby – operated by the Swedish airport operator, Swedavia. Swedavia aims to achieve net zero emissions for all its airports including the Stockholm-Arlanda hub by 2020. Hamburg airport has set this goal for 2022 – while Amsterdam-Schiphol, Eindhoven and Copenhagen airports and the Norwegian airport operator Avinor have set it for 2030.

The NetZero2050 commitment builds on a track record of commitments and follow-through by the airport industry, through the leadership of ACI EUROPE. In 2009, the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme was launched, providing airports with a 4 step journey to become carbon neutral for the emissions under their direct control. While the first year only saw 17 airports become certified at one of the 4 levels of the programme, there are now 147 airports in Europe that have become certified on a voluntary basis.

ACI EUROPE said it saw offsetting as a temporary measure to address residual emissions that airports will need to gradually replace by in-sector reductions as new decarbonisation technologies and opportunities arise.