ENVIRONMENT Last modified on June 12, 2017

Global mission

ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme is helping combat the impact of climate change by reducing CO2 emissions on the ground, writes Marina Bylinsky.

Addressing emissions on an airport site is a challenge that requires a lot of creativity and tenacity from the airport operator, but it can also give rise to highly innovative carbon management solutions. 

Encouraging and recognising these solutions is the purpose of ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation, the only independent, global carbon management standard for airports.

Airport Carbon Accreditation assesses and recognises the efforts of airports to manage and reduce their carbon emissions according to four ascending levels of certification – ‘Mapping’, ‘Reduction’, ‘Optimisation’ and ‘Neutrality’. 

Throughout these levels, airports have to comply with increasing obligations, in particular by including emissions from third party stakeholders operating at the airport in their carbon management, notably airlines, ground handlers or retailers. 

The ultimate certification level – carbon neutrality – requires that the airport offsets those remaining CO2 emissions under its direct control, that cannot be further reduced. 

It is a key feature of the programme that airport operators have to first reduce their own emissions as much as possible, before being allowed to compensate the rest.

The programme is now close to the end of its eighth year, which has been marked by significant developments. As of mid-April 2017, 190 airports from 58 countries representing 38% of world air passenger traffic have been certified. 

Out of these, 29 have reached carbon neutrality, which means that seven new airports have achieved the highest accreditation level compared to previous year. 

And, for the first time, airports outside of Europe have achieved carbon neutrality. These include Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in the US, Delhi-Indira Gandhi and Hyderabad-Rajiv Gandhi airports in India, and most recently, Sunshine Coast Airport in Australia. 

In Europe, Nice, Athens and Manchester brought the number of carbon neutral airports to 25 – half way towards ACI Europe’s target of 50 carbon neutral European airports by 2030. 

While being very different one from another, these airports share a common understanding of carbon neutrality as requiring an innovative approach to both the supply and the use of energy at an airport. 

This includes, for instance, the procurement or direct generation of electricity from renewable sources, the use of low carbon fuel or electricity for ground support equipment and efficiency improvements of lighting and heating/air conditioning systems in terminal buildings.

Furthermore, Airport Carbon Accreditation has gained extensive institutional recognition since its launch, including the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding with the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) at COP21. 

In addition, the relevance and performance of the programme have recently been confirmed in the International Transport Forum (ITF) Transport Outlook 2017, published by the OECD. 

This authoritative publication has emphasised the positive results in terms of enhanced CO2 efficiency of accredited airports. There is a clear trend of decreasing CO2 emissions per passenger since year two, in spite of a growing number of certified airports and thus their aggregated carbon footprint. 

The latest carbon performance results of accredited airports worldwide will be released in the Airport Carbon Accreditation Annual Report in September 2017. 


About the author

Marina Bylinsky is ACI Europe’s environmental strategy and intermodality manager.

Visit www.airportCO2.org or follow @AirportCO2 on Twitter for more information airports addressing CO2 issues.

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