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Last call for boarding: Airports, aviation and climate

The United Nations convened its latest international global warming conference COP23 in Bonn, Germany under the Presidency of the Government of Fiji, a nation vulnerable to climate change. The key objective of COP23: To implement the Paris Agreement which became effective in November 2016 – and from which the USA has now withdrawn.


At the Paris Agreement, governments have set the challenging target of staying well below two degrees of global temperature increase. Science tells us that this can only be achieved if we reach carbon neutrality by the second half of the century.

However, international air transport emissions are not covered by this agreement. Airports which are part of an industry that transports the equivalent of nearly half the world’s population in a single year – and the aviation industry have committed to reducing their impact on climate.

The UNFCCC has partnered with the Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) Programme, for which WSP has been the independent Administrator for nearly 10 years, to support airports to become climate neutral. More than 200 airports are certified under this voluntary programme of which 35 have reached the highest certification level of carbon neutrality.

The aim of the UNFCCC event (10 November) under their banner of climate neutral nowwas to showcase the efforts of airports to reduce their climate impacts and show how their efforts contribute to the overall sustainable development of the entire aviation sector.

WSP helped put together the programme for this event, working through the UNFCCC to bring in participation from ACI EUROPE, the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), and airport participants from Fiji, Adelaide, Lithuanian and Norwegian airports.

Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI-Europe, spoke of the success of the programme and how it is empowering the efforts of airports to ultimately neutralise their carbon footprint, including their commitment to reach 100 carbon neutral airports in Europe. Egle Lauraityte, General Counsel, Lithuanian Airports, explained how they were developing a sustainability vision and policy for the airport group and of the practicalities and difficulties involved.

Faiz Khan, Executive Chairman, Airports Fiji, spoke of how Fiji airport is addressing CO2 emissions, and the role of industry partnerships in doing so. Stephanie Bolt, Sustainability Manager, Adelaide Airport, reviewed how to reach and maintain a high level of carbon reduction achievement under ACA, of alternative pathways to carbon neutrality and of the difficulties and opportunities to engage airport stakeholders in carbon activities. Lastly, Michael Gill, Executive Director, ATAG, reviewed how aviation is supporting the UN sustainable development framework and of aviation’s strategic direction and goals in addressing climate change.

I then co-moderated alongside Olav Mosvold Larsen from Avinor, Norway's airport operator, a panel discussion which discussed what the next big idea could be to help airports lower their carbon impact; where does an airport’s responsibility end in becoming zero carbon, and finally is achieving carbon neutrality critical to the future of a successful airport.

Panellists conversed on big topics such as energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy, sustainable fuels, airport infrastructure and how to engage stakeholder in the ‘not so interesting stuff’ through which airports make lots of small changes to improve their sustainability as well as what the overall future of Airport Carbon Accreditation should look like.

The session ended with an open Q and A on how airports can help the whole aviation sector to become climate neutral”

If you'd like more information on the event, you can watch the video here

Leonie Dobbie is Head of Sustainable Aviation and Airports at WSP which is one of the founders of Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA)