Under the auspices of COP26 in Glasgow, the airport industry reiterated its global commitment to decarbonize the aviation sector, despite the blow left by Covid-19. Among the measures announced, solar farm plans and hydrogen-fuelled flights are the most promising.
“I am incredibly proud to stand here at COP and speak on behalf of an industry that faces some of the greatest challenges to decarbonize. Yet at the same time, it shows some of the greatest ambition,” said the Director-General of Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, Olivier Jankovec.
1. Solar energy
During the Climate Summit, plans for a solar farm at Glasgow Airport were announced by Derek Provan, the CEO of AGS Airports, including Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton Airports.
“All of our electricity is already from 100% renewable sources, however, the creation of the solar farm at Glasgow Airport will allow us to become self-sustaining by generating enough power for both the airport and our neighbors,” stated Provan.
According to ACI Europe, the initiative will give Glasgow Airport the capability to generate enough power for the entire airport campus and neighboring businesses. This is equivalent to powering 20% of homes in the city of Glasgow – approximately 52 thousand households.
Discussing the importance of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) to the decarbonization of the sector, Provan announced plans to trial a zero-carbon, hydrogen-fuel-cell powered flying demonstrator by September 2022. At stake is the Scottish carrier Loganair, part of the consortium planning the trial.
“If trials are successful, this could see the world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger flights take off in Orkney in late 2023,“observed ACI Europe.
Jankovec further highlighted the importance of regional airports and short-haul flights as test-beds for radically new aircraft technologies: “It’s a policy we’ve long advocated for which is already now becoming a reality.”
Options to decarbonize aviation are still quite limited, turning this ambition into the Holy Grail of the aviation industry, a difficult sector to decarbonize and which greatly contributes to emissions. According to the European Commission, the aviation sector creates 13.9% of the emissions from transport, making it the second-biggest source of transport GHG emissions after road transport.
“The pledges made at COP26 show that many governments understand the key to rapid progress is to incentivize technological change and fund innovative solutions. This is particularly true of sustainable aviation fuels, which will play a major role in addressing aviation’s environmental impact,” said the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Director General Willie Walsh.
3. Global initiatives
Other innovative and ecologically airport initiatives have been announced during COP26. The Vancouver International Airport revealed it is well on track to reach Net Zero by 2030 and with aspirations to be the greenest airport in the world.
In India, Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport is the first to reach the new Airport Carbon Accreditation Level 4+ in the Asia-Pacific region. Its planned taxiway will save 55,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, according to ACI Europe’s statement. On the French Reunion Island, groundbreaking architectural designs will override the need for air conditioning by harnessing wind power.
In one of the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, the Seymour Ecological Galapagos Airport is the world’s first ecological airport that draws100% of its energy from renewable sources.
“These global examples are a testament to the innovation and determination of airports in meeting the greatest challenge of our time. And the momentum around the world is stronger than ever,” said ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira.