Climate change is a pressing issue for people, businesses, and governments across the world. The aviation sector is under the spotlight for its contribution to carbon emissions. Aviation accounts for around 2.5% of global human-induced carbon emissions, and this percentage is expected to increase as air traffic grows. IATA has committed to net-zero carbon emissions operations by 2050, and ACI has also committed to achieving net-zero carbon by 2050. These commitments will require a range of initiatives, including the use of sustainable aviation fuel, new aircraft technology, and carbon capture and storage technology.
The aviation industry is facing a major challenge in reducing its carbon emissions. However, the industry is committed to finding solutions and is working on a number of initiatives to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Research was conducted by the University of Surrey to identify the most promising technologies for reducing aviation emissions. The study found that sustainable aviation fuel, new aircraft technology, and carbon capture and storage technology all have the potential to make a significant contribution to reducing emissions.
The study also found that a combination of these technologies is likely to be necessary to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The aviation industry is facing a major challenge, but it is committed to finding solutions. The research conducted by the University of Surrey provides a roadmap for the future of aviation and shows that it is possible to reduce emissions while still maintaining a thriving aviation sector.
Heathrow Airport is the UK’s primary hub for international and intercontinental flights. Therefore, its carbon footprint is considerably higher than other national airports. To minimise its GHG emissions, Heathrow Airports Holdings (HAL) will support all stakeholders, such as handling companies, to follow suit.
LHR aims to become a net zero airport by 2050.
LHR has specific aims for the decarbonisation process of air activity and ground operations: LHR aims to cut up to 15% of CO2 emissions stemming from air activity compared to 2019 levels by 2030; LHR aims to cut up to 45% of CO2 emissions stemming from ground operations/activity compared to 2019 levels by 2030.
LHR’s goal by 2030 is to limit and, possibly, reduce the number of people disturbed by aviation activity compared to 2019 levels;
In 2021, LHR registered a 67% reduction in the number of late-night running aircraft (post 23:30)
In 2021, the number of nights with no flights between 00:00 and 04:30 increased by 56% compared to 2019.
The number of nights with no flights between 00:00 and 04:30 increased by 56% in 2021 compared to 2019;
In 2021, 89.34% of all incoming flights adopted the Continuous Descent Approach (CDA), whose environmental advantages include reduced fuel burn, environment-damaging emissions, and noise;
99.9% of all LHR-departing flights adopted the 4% minimum climb gradient, whose advantages are comparable to those of CDA.
32.57% of LHR’s passengers used public transport to get to the airport in 2021;
LHR aims to reduce Nitrogen Oxides NOx (tonnes) emissions from airside operations by 18% by 2030 compared to 2019.
Passengers travelling to the airport (Passenger Surface Access) contribute to 1.60% of scope 3 emissions. Heathrow Airport surface access strategy addresses emissions that are surface-access related by encouraging greater use of public transport, walking and cycling, and ensuring that the remaining motor-vehicle trips are conducted more efficiently and use cleaner vehicles.
LHR committed to replacing all its owned conventional fossil fuel vehicles with zero/ low emissions vehicles by 2030.
In 2021, the number of operational equipment and vehicles active at LHR decreased by 63% compared to 2019;
LHR also plans to invest heavily in active travel (cycle and walking routes), public transport, and more electric vehicle charging points in an effort to reduce emissions from airside operations and passengers/employees reaching the airport.
Grid power and renewable energy supply
As of 2022, LHR procures 100% of its grid power via a Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin – REGO tariff. Therefore, it reports zero emissions for grid electricity.
LHR supports local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). To increase the number of SMEs collaborating with the airport, LHR has been creating supplier guides and simplified dedicated pages on LHR’s website;
External suppliers are backed by SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange), an external auditing platform to support the due diligence process of the supply chain. The aim is to choose external suppliers that adopt environmentally friendly procedures.
LHR is also a partner of the Supply Chain Sustainability School, which offers practical support to suppliers in the form of e-learning modules, tailored self-assessment, action plans, and training to support suppliers in the path to becoming progressively more environmentally friendly.
The tonnes of CO2 emissions generated by the consumption of water in 2021 dropped by 79% compared to 2019.
LHR aims to maximise the reuse, recycling, and recovery of materials used at the premise.
In 2021, there was a 67% reduction in tonnes of waste generated compared to 2019.
In 2021, the recycling rate at LHR was stable at slightly less than 50%.
The amount of waste recycled in 2021 increased by 1% compared to 2021, for a total of 49.9%.
Gatwick Airport is the UK’s second busiest airport, which handled 46.6 million passengers in 2019. The airport operates two terminals which could serve 75 million passengers a year by 2038.
LGW aims to further reduce Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by up to 25% by 2030 (up to 80% under the 1990 baseline) on the path to becoming net zero by 2040;
Gatwick Airport Limited (GAL) plans to require all LGW duty vehicles, ground support equipment, and mobile construction equipment to meet zero or ultra-low emissions standards by 2030;
For direct emissions, GAL aims to reduce them by 16.9% compared to 2019;
For Scope 2 emissions, GAL aims to reduce them by 48.8% compared to 2019;
In 2021, 90.89% complied with the Continuous Descent Operations (CDO).
Through their strategy ‘A decade of change’ LGW continued to meet all applicable air quality objectives for NO2, PM10 and PM2.5, shown by ratified data from Gatwick’s real-time automatic monitoring site.
60% of passengers and employees now use public transport, zero or ultra-low emissions vehicles to reach Gatwick Airport;
LGW will invest in the installation of charging stations for electric vehicles;
Currently, there are 12 electric vehicle charging bays for the staff to use;
GAL offers carbon incentives for airlines operating the most environmentally-friendly aircraft to the airport.
The airport plans to replace all vehicles with zero/ultra-low emissions vehicles.
Grid power and renewable energy supply
Gatwick Airport Limited (GAL) procures almost all its grid power via renewable REGO tariff, which enables the airport to record near-zero emissions for grid electricity. For 2030, the airport aims to reduce direct emissions by 25%, sourcing 50% of on-site electricity and 50% of the heat network from renewable sources.
GAL aims to reduce the amount of potable water consumption on a per passenger basis by 50% by 2030 compared to 2019;
In general, GAL aims to reduce water consumption by 49% by 2030 compared to 2019.
By 2030, LGW aims to make sure that all materials used for operations, commercial activity, and construction are repurposed for beneficial use, for instance, donated, recycled, composted or converted to fuel for heating or transport;
In 2021, LGW recycled 53.39% of all waste generated; Additionally, the airport managed to report zero untreated waste to landfill for six consecutive years.
Located 13.9 km southwest of Manchester city centre, Manchester Airport is the UK’s third busiest airport in passenger numbers and the most active among airports not serving London. Manchester Airport Holdings, owns and manages the airport, that serves as a travel hub for northern England, providing connections to over 200 global destinations, and catering to 27 million passengers annually.
Manchester airport is a member of the Sustainable Aviation (SA) coalition, all of Manchester Airport Group (MAG) airport operations will be net zero carbon by 2038. The roadmap commits organisations to support an anticipated 70% growth in aviation passengers by 2050, whilst reducing net carbon emissions levels from just over 30 million tonnes of CO2 per year down to zero. To achieve this goal, the airport is committed to delivering smarter and quieter flight operations; delivering aircraft and engine operational improvements; modernising airspace and fleets; adopting sustainable aviation fuels; and investing in and researching future aircraft technologies and innovative solutions.
Manchester Airport monitors and records all air transport movements and their noise. The airport delivers its Noise Action Plan (NAP) with the aim of minimising the impact of noise on the local communities. The plan includes improving the adoption of noise-efficient ‘continuous climb’ operations and ‘continuous descent’ approaches. In 2022, over 95% of departing aircraft used ‘continuous climb’, and 88% of arriving aircrafts adopted a continuous descent approach. Airport, a Manchester airport have set restrictions on the use of the loudest aircraft operating during the night.
The airport recorded zero breaches against the national approved air quality limit. The Airport follows Greater Manchester Combined Authority Low Emission Strategy and Air Quality Action Plan to reducing emissions and improving air quality in the region. This includes reducing emissions from road transport in the region, introducing lower-emission aircraft, and more efficient aircraft routes.
The surface access initiatives helped to reduce emissions and minimise the impact of airport-related emissions on local communities (such as air quality). In 2022, the airport rolled out a Sustainable Transport Fund for improvements to public transport, cycling and walking options, with a levy on passenger car parking and drop-off charges.
By 2030, all vehicles owned by the airport should be 100% ultra-low emission.
Grid power and renewable energy supply
Manchester airport currently sources 100% of its grid power from a renewable REGO tariff. To achieve net zero operations, the airport infrastructure will rely entirely on renewable energy by 2030.
Manchester airport focuses on operational controls and compliance monitoring systems, continuing to work proactively with the Environment Agency and sewage undertakers. Despite the return of air traffic, the airport recorded a reduction in total water consumption by 6% of megalitres. This reduction is due to improved accuracy of water measurement equipment at the airport. The airport also reported a compliance rate of 95.1% for surface water discharges.
Manchester airport is committed to reducing waste and promoting recycling and eliminating landfill. The total waste diverted from landfill decreased by 6% to 86% from previous year, and the waste intensity (tonnes waste per traffic unit) dropped by 33% signallig effective implementation of waste reduction plans.
UK’s fourth busiest airport serves as one of the most important bases for the Irish Low-Cost Carrier (LCC) Ryanair. Stansted and Manchester Airport follow the same decarbonization strategy and implementation timeline given that both airports are owned and managed by their parent company Manchester Airport Group.
All of Manchester Airport Group (MAG) airport operations including London Stansted will be net zero carbon by 2038. Airport infrastructure will operate on renewable energy by 2030, with new and replacement infrastructure running on renewable energy from 2025.
The airport delivers its Noise Action Plan (NAP) to improve the adoption of noise-efficient ‘continuous climb’ and ‘continuous descent’ operations. London Stansted launched noise league tables, which detail the noise-related performance of airlines’ fleets and their compliance with noise abatement procedures. League tables are expected to encourage airlines to utilise more fuel-efficient and quieter aircraft through incentivised performance ranking.
To decrease emissions and enhance local air quality, Stansted airport adheres to the low emission strategy and air quality action plan. Measures include working closely with airlines, operational teams and air traffic control to reduce engine taxiing.
Supporting the transition to ultra-low emissions vehicles (ULEV) in a planned and consistent manner (in line with the UK Government’s phase-out) by transitioning 100% of the operational fleet to ULEVs.
Airport vehicle fleet to comprise of 100% ultra-low emission vehicles by 2030.
Grid power and renewable energy supply
Stansted Airport also procures 100% of its grid power from a renewable REGO tariff. Under the market-based reporting mechanism Stansted records zero emissions for grid electricity. The airport also launched 14.3 MW solar farm project.
London Stansted Airport works proactively with the Environment Agency. The airport recorded 98% compliance with surface water consents.
The airport works proactively with the Environment Agency to achieve waste management targets. Total waste dropped 56% with a 14% increase of recycling on-site for segregated waste. London Stansted partnered with Bio-Bean, a British company, to produce fuel pellets from coffee grounds collected from airports, which have a calorific value higher than wood pellets at an appropriate density.
In 2018, London Luton Airport (LLA) completed a three-year development that improved the overall infrastructure with a Direct Air Rail Transit (DART) system in place. Currently London Luton Airport is reporting remarkably higher Scope 2 emissions, and it aims at achieving 50% onsite renewables by 2030
The airport has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2026, and net zero by 2040. This is outlined in their Net Zero 2040 plan. LLA is part of ACI Europe’s Airport Carbon Accreditation scheme which is the only global carbon certification programme for airports. The airport has achieved level 3 accreditation through reducing their carbon emissions and engaging the stakeholders in their journey.
The airport follows the Noise Action Plan, and has entered in S106 Legal Agreement (2014) with Luton Council which outlines the management of airport’s operation, growth and environmental impact.
LLA has a rigorous programme of Air Quality monitoring that is linked programme results to the data of surrounding Local Authorities with monthly online reporting. DART (Direct Air-Rail Transit) is in operation, and commitments to increase the number of electric charging points in car parks.
Provide infrastructure to support the use of low emissions (including autonomous) public transport and freight vehicles.
Starting 2040, commit to use low emissions airport vehicles and to make properties future-ready for new vehicle technologies and fuels.
Grid power and renewable energy supply
Luton’s market-based emissions for electricity are higher than their location-based reporting. This implies that their local energy supply is more carbon-intensive than the UK grid average for electricity. By 2026, Luton plans to have 25% on-site renewables, and 50% by 2030.
In 2016, London Luton Airport was announced as the first establishment in the UK to be equipped with ground-breaking new stormwater treatment equipment, which is set to transform the way in which airports, and other major infrastructure projects, are able to manage surface water runoff.
In 2019, the airport generated a total of 2,471 tonnes of non-hazardous operational Commercial and Industrial (C&I) waste and 21 tonnes of hazardous waste. 60% of airport operational non-hazardous waste was sent to recycling facilities, with the remaining 40% sent to an energy recovery facility. No non-hazardous C&I waste was sent directly to landfill.