The coveted 0 net emissions

November 26, 2018

The number of carbon neutral airports is rising steadily. Since the last edition of AirportCO2 News, another 4 airports reached net zero emissions from their operations. Under Airport Carbon Accreditation, carbon neutrality, as this state is commonly referred to, is when the net carbon dioxide emissions under direct control by the airport operator over an entire year is zero. This is usually achieved if the airport reduces its emissions as much as possible and compensates for any residual emissions through the purchase of carbon offsets. Thanks to their work to achieve this, the total number of airports at the highest level of Airport Carbon Accreditation has risen to 48. 

Chapeau! First carbon neutral group in France

It seems like Côte d’Azur Airports are on a quest to gather all the firsts regarding carbon neutrality in France. The busiest airport in their group, Nice Côte d’Azur Airport was one of the first French airports to join the programme, and 5 years later, in 2016, became the first French airport to achieve Level 3+ Neutrality. 

Now, with the successful upgrades of Cannes-Mandelieu and Saint Tropez airports, the entire group has become the first carbon neutral network of airports in the home country of Voltaire. Since 2015, the group’s airports have significantly reduced their CO2 emissions, thanks to the successful partnership with the Electricité de France (EDF) Group and the signing of a guaranteed 100% French hydraulic electricity purchase contract, which has led to a reduction of 30 to 50% of their total emissions, depending on the airport.

In the future, Nice Côte d’Azur Airport has also decided to convert its fleet of professional vehicles to electric. Its service vehicles will thus be completely renewed by 2020. The airports of Cannes-Mandelieu and Saint Tropez will follow in Nice Airport’s footsteps shortly after.

In order to compensate for the remaining emissions, the airport group offset 1,961 tonnes of CO2 by purchasing Gold Standard carbon credits from the following projects:

–              Africompost in Togo, Cameroun and Madagascar, reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a systematic and controlled treatment of organic waste,

–              Landfill gas project in Santa Marta, Chili, using emissions from the landfill to produce electricity,

–              Rwanda Borehole Project, avoiding greenhouse gas emissions associated to traditional ways of water purification by rehabilitating boreholes.

Norway says ‘No way!’ to carbon

Avinor, the company managing most of Norway’s airports, has recently become well-known for its far-reaching strides in the development of electric planes to serve regional flights between its airports. The group’s CEO Dag Falk-Petersen and Norway’s Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen carried out a successful maiden flight of a two-seater electric plane, while asserting that electric passenger flights on short distances could kick off as early as 2025. In fact, Avinor’s goal is for all Norwegian short-haul aviation to be electrified by 2040 and the company is already playing an active role in achieving this goal. Avinor has established a long-term project for the introduction of electric aircraft in Norwegian aviation. The project is supported by the government, and the other project partners are Widerøe, S.A.S. and the climate foundation ZERO.

Back on the ground, the group is also focused on its ambitious objective to achieve “no fossil greenhouse gas emission from own controllable activities by 2020”. Thanks to their extensive work to reduce and compensate for their carbon footprint, two more airports in Norway have joined the carbon neutral ranks within Airport Carbon Accreditation. Oslo and Trondheim airports which have participated in the programme almost since Day 1 and joined directly at Level 3+ Neutrality, were followed by the upgrading of Bergen and Stavanger in year 9. 

As for the large majority of airports, Avinor’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions is the LTO cycle, i.e. emissions from aircraft below 3,000 feet that are landing, taxiing and taking off at the airport. These emissions can be significantly reduced if sustainable aviation fuels are phased in. Under commission from Avinor, SAS, Norwegian and the Federation of Norwegian Aviation Industries (NHO luftfart), the consultancy Rambøll has studied whether it is possible to establish commercially profitable Norwegian production of sustainable biofuels for aviation. The report concludes that synthetic biofuels could be produced in Norway at competitive prices by 2025. Until then, the group has put imported jet biofuels on offer. At its two busiest airports – Oslo and Bergen – a special blend of jet fuel mixed with biofuels is made available to all aircraft. This development was funneled by the recent decision of the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment to oblige the aviation fuel industry to mix 0.5 percent advanced biofuel into jet fuel from 2020 onwards. Up until now, Norway is the first and only country to push for such legislation, which strongly supports the development of the biofuel market. Avinor’s airports stay ahead of the curve in driving this praiseworthy initiative.  

Better guidance on offsetting

Level 3+ Neutrality is the most ambitious accreditation level. To achieve this status an airport must first reduce its scope 1 and 2 emissions as much as possible. Then the airport must offset residual emissions that cannot be reduced, alongside scope 3 emissions from staff business travel. 

The credibility of the carbon neutrality status therefore depends on the quality of the offset credits used. To help airports select offsets of high quality, in 2017 ACI EUROPE commissioned a review of offsetting instruments and project types. The study was carried out by the consultancy Ecofys. The findings have been reviewed by the programme Task Force and Advisory Board, which have decided to introduce a more comprehensive guidance on offsetting for Airport Carbon Accreditation, addressing aspects such as offset programmes, project types and vintage. A dedicated guidance document is under development and expected to be completed by end 2018.