As world leaders convene in Paris for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21), Europe’s aviation industry is also thinking about how to reduce its eco-footprint. Specifically, industry representatives have pledged to increase the number of carbon-neutral airports in Europe to 50 by the year 2030.
The announcement comes at a time when other factions of the travel industry are also hopping on board the environmentally conscious train. Around the world, a wide variety of hotels have adopted eco-friendly initiatives; some hotels have even made it a core part of their mission to provide environmentally sound accommodations. Meanwhile, many individual travelers are embracing sustainable and eco-friendly tourism, while others choose to offset their carbon emissions every time they fly.
Not to be eclipsed, the aviation industry is adopting an increasingly serious approach to climate change. Here’s how the airport sector is doing its part.
A Pressing Need
The need for the aviation industry to make good on its promises of carbon neutrality is clear. Research from the European Commission has found that large airports consume as much electricity and thermal energy as a city of 100,000 people. (And that’s not even taking into account the environmental cost of flying planes once they’ve left the airports.) Up to 50 percent of that energy is consumed by airports’ heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
The industry’s newest commitment builds on the industry’s goal (established in June 2008) of ultimately making all European airports carbon neutral. Toward that end, the industry adopted a carbon management standard—dubbed the Airport Carbon Accreditation program—in June 2009.
The industry has already made some progress toward its carbon-neutrality goals. To date, 93 European airports—which together account for 64 percent of the annual traffic through European airports—have been certified under Airport Carbon Accreditation. Out of these, 20 are already carbon neutral. Popular Amsterdam and Venice airports fall into this category.
All told, there are approximately 500 airports located throughout Europe—so while a goal of 50 carbon-neutral airports is laudable, here’s hoping it’s just the beginning of the aviation industry’s commitment to going green.
The good news is that airports outside of Europe have also started to express interest in achieving carbon neutrality. So far, 137 airports—which together represent 31 percent of the world’s plane passenger traffic—around the world have been certified under Airport Carbon Accreditation.
And then there’s what may be the greenest airport on the planet: Galapagos Ecological, which serves approximately 300,000 passengers a year and is the only airport to operate exclusively on solar and wind power. In order to do so, the airport only operates during the day and relies on high-tech photovoltaic panels to generate solar energy.
Here’s hoping that all these efforts to go green keep our skies a healthy blue.