(photo: Gatwick Airport)
Thu 19 Jan 2017 – London Gatwick has become the first airport to join the RE100 global alliance that commits businesses to using 100% renewable electricity. It joins over 80 of the world’s most influential companies that cover sectors such as IT, telecoms, retail, food and banking. With the private sector accounting for around half of the world’s electricity consumption, switching demand to renewables will accelerate the transformation of the global energy market and aid the transition to a low-carbon economy, says the initiative. The 87 companies in the alliance create enough renewable electricity demand to power Holland each year. Gatwick has already been purchasing 100% renewable electricity since 2013, a key factor in its efforts to becoming carbon neutral. Meanwhile, Athens International has become the first Greek airport to become carbon neutral, raising the number of airports worldwide to achieve this status to 28.
Gatwick claims as a result of continued investment in energy and fuel efficiency, its environmental footprint is the same or better today than in the early 1990s despite passenger numbers doubling.
CEO Stewart Wingate said the airport was on a journey to become the UK’s most sustainable airport and one of the greenest in the world.
“We are serious about growing sustainably and we have some ambitious plans to develop in the most environmentally responsible way possible,” he said. “We expect to see our world-first waste plant generating heat for our North Terminal this year and we are introducing an electric car sharing service, the first of its kind for a UK airport.”
Electricity comprises 80% of the airport’s operational carbon footprint, and the airport says the remaining emissions will be offset through international, national and local renewable energy programmes. Having reached Level 3 of the airport industry’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme for the last three years, Gatwick is in the process of certification towards the carbon neutrality Level 3+, which it expects to achieve this spring.
RE100 was started in 2014 by non-profit business and government consultancy The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, as part of the We Mean Business coalition, and is now being rolled out in China and India in addition to Europe and the United States. Gatwick is one of three new companies to join the alliance, announced during the current World Economic Forum in Davos.
“It is really encouraging to see companies such as Gatwick committing to bold climate action, helping us move towards a net zero emissions economy,” said Damian Ryan, Acting CEO of The Climate Group. “But we need to see faster progress. In order to deliver on the Paris Agreement and keep global warming well below two degrees, we need governments to remove policy barriers and create investment incentives that can provide easier access to renewable energy. And we need more business leaders to influence the usage of renewable power right along their supply chains.”
UK campaign group Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) was less enthusiastic about Gatwick’s moves. “We welcome initiatives that will increase the use of renewable electricity in the UK. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that Gatwick’s commitment extends only to the airport infrastructure and vehicles. The planes that fly out of Gatwick are still powered by fossil fuels and will remain so for decades to come,” said AEF Deputy Director, Cait Hewitt, pointing out that 99% of the airport’s emissions come from the aircraft that use it rather than the airport itself.
Opened in 2001, Athens International Airport (AIA) was one of the very early adopters of ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme that started in 2009, becoming accredited in the very first year and has since then renewed and upgraded the levels of its certification. It was one of the first airports to invest in solar technology, building a €20 million ($21m) photovoltaic park. It continues to add energy and fuel saving measures, such as the certification of its energy management system to ISO 50001, the continued modernisation of airport equipment and the optimisation of energy systems.
“By achieving carbon neutrality, AIA continues to tangibly demonstrate its commitment to the fight against climate change. We are proud to be among leading airports, not only as a major economic engine, but also through our reduced ecological footprint, thanks to the environmental awareness and complementary efforts of our colleagues and partners across the airport community,” commented CEO Dr Yiannis Paraschis.
Added Niclas Svenningsen, head of the UNFCCC’s Climate Neutral Now initiative: “The ambitious efforts of a growing number of carbon neutral airports are testament to how seriously this industry is working on addressing its direct impact on climate change. With 25 European airports now carbon neutral, the airport industry is already halfway towards meeting its pledge at COP21 of having 50 carbon neutral airports in Europe by 2030. We look forward to more progress in the year ahead.”
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