Media

Interview with Nicolas Notebaert

June 18, 2024

Toulon Hyères, Beja, Madeira, and Ponta Delgada, all operated by VINCI Airports, are among the world’s first ten pioneers to reach Level 5 in the Airport Carbon Accreditation How were these specific airports within your network selected for the upgrade to Level 5? Can you share the key highlights of your journey to fulfil all the requirements of the new level?

VINCI Airports has a wide portfolio of airports, all of which share a global environmental strategy and have the common goal of achieving Net Zero direct carbon emissions, in 2030 for the airports in the EU and London Gatwick, and in 2050 in the rest of the world. Thus, we naturally decided to start with the airports that were the most advanced in terms of decarbonisation, and it turns out that these are the regional airports in Europe that were already showing very large reductions in carbon emissions. The diversity and number of facilities to be decarbonised are more limited than at very large international hubs. However, they have the advantage of having characteristics that can be transposed to large airports. Starting the journey at this scale enables us to make a better assessment of the challenges and opportunities to achieve net zero emissions and to develop the capacity needed to mitigate potential risks.

According to your AirPact strategy, VINCI Airports is the first international airport consortium to have all its platforms enter Airport Carbon Accreditation How did you decide to pursue this strategic objective and why did you choose the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme?

Airport Carbon Accreditation is the only institutionally endorsed, global carbon management certification program for airports, accepted and recognised in all the regions of the world. When VINCI Airports decided to commit to an international environmental strategy in 2015 and to achieve the goal of net zero emissions across its entire network by 2050, we decided to take part in this federative action to involve all our airports in the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme. It was the first action in our plan. The accreditation of our airports in France and Cambodia took place during COP 21 in Paris at the end of 2015. This became one of the pillars of our environmental policy, as a mark of our long-term commitment to reducing our carbon footprint.

As a global airport operator, what is your biggest challenge when it comes to decarbonising airports you manage? Are there notable differences between the regions or even individual countries in terms of conditions conducive to carbon management?

Whereas some airports are located in regions that are very advanced in terms of climate policies, others are just beginning their journey. This leads us to develop regionally tailored

decarbonisation strategies to reach our emissions targets. We take as an example the solutions implemented in the most advanced regions, and evaluate the possibility of replicating these solutions abroad, conducting the appropriate techno-economic analysis based on system installations.

One of the greatest challenges is the impact of the national electricity grid in the countries where we operate. The transition of the power sector in some regions is both difficult and tim

e-critical and it has an impact on our decarbonization strategy. Thus, we have decided to deploy green energy projects for self-consumption, in all our airports, reducing as much as possible the dependence on the national grid, and encouraging green energy contracts. This action sometimes requires strong commitment in being deployed, when, for example, the country does not facilitate the installation of self-consumption photovoltaic parks.

The journey to Level 5 accreditation demands a comprehensive strategy for addressing both direct and indirect emissions. Could you outline your main initiatives targeting Scope 3 emissions? In what ways have VINCI Airports worked with airlines, suppliers, and other partners to foster collective action towards emissions reduction?

VINCI Airports is committed to decarbonise the mobility industry as a whole by helping its clients and partners to reduce their own emissions (scope 3). As the world’s first airport operator to roll out variable landing fees that takes account of aircraft CO2 emissions, we incentivise aircraft operators to use cleaner and more efficient fleets, through a bonus-malus mechanism of financial neutrality to the airport and in line with local regulations.

A big step in our commitment is the electrification of ground operations. Eleven (11) VINCI Airports in Portugal and France were awarded under the EU grant from the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Facility (AFIF) for the installation of systems that limit the use of Auxiliary Power Units (APU) of aircraft, resulting in emissions reductions during the turnaround time.

Another lever is the promotion and at-scale development of sustainable fuels and hydrogen. Biofuels are one of the main planks of VINCI Airports´ environmental strategy for decarbonising aviation. They offer a decisive short-term advantage as they can be adopted immediately, while new technologies arrive, such as hydrogen-powered aircraft.

By offering it in several of its airports (Clermont-Ferrand, Grenoble, Saint- Nazaire Montoir and Toulon), VINCI Airports is helping to limit the carbon impact of air travel within it

s network, in parallel with actions carried out in the scope of its own activities.

Additionally, through several partnerships, VINCI Airports is investing in green hydrogen production at Lyon Airport, with a first gaseous hydrogen station for light vehicles at the end of 2024, followed by production and distribution stations for gaseous hydrogen for ramp vehicles and heavy mobility in 2026, and at a later stage between 2035 and 2040, liquid hydrogen for aircraft.

Level 5 is a blueprint for Net Zero carbon balance at airports and as we’ve seen with VINCI’s stellar achievement, it is feasible already today. Are you confident that the industry will decarbonise by 2050, considering the much larger and harder to abate chunk of emissions that come from flights?

We are confident that if we all play our part, and act within our value chain and beyond, it is possible, though not easy. It is possible to transform our business: transforming the way in which we produce and consume energy and counterbalancing the residual emissions with high quality projects that provide benefits to the territories in which we operate.

Looking ahead, what are your future plans within Airport Carbon Accreditation and which airports from your network are on track to achieve Level 5 accreditation next?

Our plan is to gradually and continually transition our airports into this Level 5, having as a goal some airports in Europe to join in 2026 and all airports within the EU and London Gatwick to achieve it by 2030. VINCI Airports in the rest of the world also share this goal to reach Level 5 before 2050, with some airports aiming to reach this level earlier, for instance in Latin America.