The environment or the bottom line?

24 november 2021

As COP26 has shown, governments around the world are seemingly stepping up their efforts to combat the effects of climate change. The aviation industry has a significant role in those efforts, from the manufacturers to the airports. The question is, how much action do airports want to take?

We are already seeing a lot of positive developments at airports when it comes to sustainability. Terminals are becoming self-sustainable, (ground) equipment gets more carbon neutral and even some airports are reaching the state of net-zero (carbon) emissions. At the same time, we see aircraft manufacturers developing new technologies, with flying fully electric as the pinnacle. This seems however still to be a ‘thing of the future’, because at the current state of development this is not yet a viable alternative for replacing fossil fuel. Another technology that is coming up, is the development and use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). At the moment SAF is used as a margin of ‘regular’ fuel, but the intentions are that SAF will become the standard in the future. Until that happens – meaning having the proper regulations in place to decarbonise the aviation industry –, we need to look at aircraft- and engine manufacturers to try to get the best ‘milage’ out of the current fuels and engines.

The forefront

Does that mean that airports cannot do anything else besides waiting on manufacturers to develop cleaner technologies or regulators get the required regulations in place? No. In fact, airports should take a lead role in stimulating the other partners in the industry to become even more active in making the industry more sustainable. Because their livelihood and even their existence depend on it. The world is at a point where it demands actions from every stakeholder, with governments being number one to act, but also aviation should be at the forefront, according to several organisations.

Governments will react by capping growth and expansions of airports, both physically as well as in terms of aircraft movements around airports. The economy is not leading anymore, living conditions are. As far as we can assess, airports will only be able to grow if they find ways to increase aircraft movements whilst staying within the current emission and noise limits that are set. So, it is up to airports to influence aircraft manufacturers to become cleaner, for instance by ways of taxation on environment unfriendly aircraft. But also, by working together, in a way Groningen Airport Eelde is doing in the Netherlands. They have committed themselves to being the hub for sustainable aviation.

Airports – and the aviation industry as a whole – however, also have to ask themselves a serious question: Are you trying to curtain the effects of climate change or are you looking at ways to secure growth in a changing world, where automatic growth is no longer an option? Are you truly focused on the environment or just on the bottom line?

We are here to help you answer that question and we can help you look into ways to combat the effects of climate change, as well as looking for ways of sustainable growth. Are you at a crossroad? Reach out to us. Together we can find a way to become even more sustainable.

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