European airport industry commits to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 without the use of offset credits
(photo: ACI Europe)
Wed 26 June 2019 – In a resolution passed at its annual general assembly in Cyprus, trade body ACI Europe committed the European airport industry to becoming net zero for carbon emissions under its control by no later than 2050. The sector says it is responding to the Climate Emergency and acting upon the latest scientific evidence from the UN’s IPCC report on holding the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. Based on current traffic volumes at European airports and the total estimated carbon footprint, the net zero goal requires the elimination of 3.46 million tonnes of annual CO2 emissions. The resolution, backed by 194 airports across 24 European countries, also calls for the entire aviation sector to develop a joint ambition, vision and roadmap towards a net zero carbon emissions air transport system.
The airports further call on governments at ICAO to accept the IPCC evidence and to establish a work plan aimed at approving a long-term carbon emissions reduction target and related roadmap at the 2022 ICAO Assembly.
To achieve the 2050 net zero goal, the airports say they will reduce absolute emissions to the furthest extent possible and address any remaining emissions through investment in carbon removal and storage. ACI Europe’s current commitment to having 100 carbon neutral airports by 2030 allows for the offsetting of remaining emissions but it said airport operators will not have the possibility to purchase offset credits to reach net zero status.
“ACI Europe sees 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,” stated the trade body.
It calls on European governments to accelerate “a clean energy transition ensuring that airports across Europe can switch to zero carbon energy under competitive conditions.”
ACI Europe has also launched a ‘Sustainability Strategy for Airports’ to address a wide range of environmental, social and economic issues, which it said will equip European airports with an industry-wide framework and guidance that will enable them to embed sustainability into their core business strategy.
The 194 airports signing the resolution handled 62.5% of European air passenger traffic in 2018 and are run by 40 airport operators. The resolution remains open to additional signatories, said ACI Europe.
“Europe’s airports have been leading climate action with annual reductions announced every year for the past decade. Forty-three of them have actually become carbon neutral, supported by the global industry standard Airport Carbon Accreditation. However, today’s commitment brings a new dimension to this – no offsets. Crucially, with its NetZero2050 commitment, the airport industry is aligning itself with the Paris Agreement and the ambitions of the vast majority of EU countries,” said Dr Michael Kerkloh, President of ACI Europe and CEO of Munich Airport.
“Europe’s airports have already started delivering, and I am confident that many will reach net zero before 2050. 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 Stockholm-Arlanda by 2020 along with Hamburg airport by 2022, while Amsterdam-Schiphol, Eindhoven and Copenhagen airports have set this goal for 2030.”
Welcoming the net zero commitment, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said: “The IPCC Special Report from last October is unequivocal about the need to achieve net zero emissions by mid-century. We need all sectors of society working towards this ultimate goal. It is therefore encouraging to see the airport industry voluntarily raising its ambitions and we look forward to working with this vital sector.”