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ENVIRONMENT Last modified on October 16, 2014

Going green

Guest writer, Marius Nicolescu, discusses an ambitious community-driven project to create decarbonised airport regions in Europe.

Europe’s decarbonised airport regions (dAIR) project was born out of the desire of a small group of regions and airports to significantly reduce CO2 emissions around the continent’s gateways.

Formed three years ago and co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (through Interreg IVC), it has led to a new period of co-operation on the environment between its 14 members, which include Eindhoven and Stockholm Arlanda airports, the cities of Leipzig and Vienna, and the Province of Bologna.

‘Surface Access’ – something that the Airport Regions Conference, the European organisation representing regions with airports, estimates accounts for up to 40% of the carbon footprint of an
airport – and ‘Airport Operations’ are the two main issues tackled by the dAIR project.

Another 10% of fossil fuel emissions is produced by the airport’s own operations, such as ground handling, lighting or heating, with the rest coming from the aircraft.

“We focused on the two major aspects that we, as airport owners or organisations responsible for surface access, can really influence – CO2-neutrality of airport operations and sustainable surface access,” says dAIR project manager, Ron Nohlmans.

According to Nohlmans, visiting each other’s airports and regions to learn from them quickly became a norm for the project.

“The visits helped the different partners understand what other regions were doing with regards to CO2 emissions and identify good ideas and best practices that they could potentially take back and implement themselves,” enthuses Nohlmans.

“For example, the city and airport of El Prat, near Barcelona, got the idea for an on-demand bus system for airport staff working outside the operating hours of the public transport system after hearing about an existing scheme at Paris CDG.

“It is, of course, good for the environment as it removes CO2 from the atmosphere that would have been created by the employees driving their own cars to the airport.” 

Other dAIR project success stories based on the exchange of knowledge and experiences of members include:

  • Eindhoven Airport looking at achieving carbon neutrality
  • Bologna Airport’s decision to offset some of its carbon by constructing a green belt to the north of the gateway
  • The city of Leipzig implementing an e-car sharing system and offering airport employees free public transport to the airport

Indeed, beyond driving the understanding of the need to reduce carbon on the ground at airports, dAIR has helped reunite airports with some transportation and operational stakeholders.

“Through dAIR and frequent stakeholder forums, discussions arise and new ideas come forward, and involvement is not limited to stakeholders in direct contact with the airport or directly related to carbon reduction,” adds Nohlmans.

The project will end in 2014 with a final event and exhibition held in Brussels on October 13 before the issue of a report with policy recommendations based on the findings of the exchange of information over the last three years. 

However, the real value of the project is not a report, but actions that will be taken as a result of it, connections made and, of course, the reduction in CO2 on the ground in the areas targeted by it. 

Nohlmans concludes: “Airports are an important factor in the economic development of our regions, and to stay important economically, in many cases, it is necessary for them to grow. We want them to, of course, as they are of great added value to our regions, but their growth, or even stability, has to be sustainable and achieved by lowering their ecological footprint.”

The project partner regions of the dAIR project are the City of Eindhoven; Eindhoven Airport; Airport Regions Conference; Communauté d’agglomération Terres de France; Stockholm Public Transport Authority; Stockholm-Arlanda Airport/Swedavia; City of Leipzig; Mitteldeutsche Airport Holding; City of Vienna; Province of Bologna; City of El Prat de Llobregat; Transport Malta; Mazovia Voivodship; and Prague Airport Region. 

About the author
Marius Nicolescu is dAIR’s project communications manager and junior communications officer with Airport Regions Conference (www.airportregions.org)

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