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ACI World director general, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, considers the challenges of climate change and airports as sustainability leaders.

Since the Paris Agreement, the international treaty on climate change adopted at COP 21, many industries have understood the urgency of addressing our common and most existential threat: climate change.

The international treaty’s goal is to limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

In addition, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report, published in October 2018, has called for drastic reductions in global carbon emissions, and concluded that net zero emissions need to be reached by 2050.

Airports as sustainability leaders

Airports have been at the forefront of sustainability in the aviation industry. In fact, we are proud to boast that the airport community made the first aviation sector commitment at the global level, based on a comprehensive long-term goal feasibility study. In June 2021, ACI World and its members committed to reaching reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Indeed, around the world, airports have been developing and implementing environmental and social initiatives for many years, placing sustainability at the core of their business strategies. This has included action to reduce aircraft noise, limit emissions that affect local air quality, and working closely with the communities around airports on social and environmental impacts.

As many of you know, ACI has a long-running programme to measure and map carbon emissions and to recognise airports that take action through the Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) programme to reduce those emissions. Globally, the ACA programme has 412 airports at all levels of the programme in 79 countries across the world.

In addition, many airports are preparing to adapt their operations and infrastructure for sustainable energy sources, engaging in research, developing pilot projects for new technologies, implementing co-operation agreements with stakeholders, engaging in the circular economy, and protecting biodiversity.

LTAG: A cross-industry commitment

In October 2021, the wider aviation industry followed in step, agreeing through the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), to a common goal of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. This goal is ambitious and achievable but requires strong support from governments.

Thus, at ICAO’s 41st Triennial Assembly, which was taking place in Montréal as this edition of Airport World went to press, the industry found itself at a historic moment in which civil aviation’s long-term future would be defined.

For those of you unfamiliar with the event and its importance, the ICAO Assembly establishes worldwide policy and guides governments’ continuing and future work in civil aviation.

This event attracted more than 2,500 delegates, including ministers, directors general of civil aviation, and senior policy and decision makers. States and international organisations, including ACI World, submitted a number of Working Papers during the Assembly. The discussion and their conclusions direct the work of ICAO for the next triennium.

ACI believes that the adoption of an ambitious environmental agreement at the ICAO 41st Triennial Assembly that is fully aligned with the Paris Agreement and the aviation industry’s own commitments would demonstrate the leadership and commitment of ICAO and governments in taking bold measures to combat climate change.

In addition, ICAO member States must continue to support the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), as the single global market-based mechanism for international aviation emissions.

ACI Papers at 41st ICAO Assembly

ACI on behalf of airports, via a Working Paper, invited the Assembly to further support airports’ work to develop and implement their decarbonisation strategies and action plans, and support increased collaboration among stakeholders to increase the availability of renewable energy, finance, and capacity building. We also submitted an Information Paper on how airports can support the decarbonisation of the aviation ecosystem.

In a show of solidarity, ACI has co-signed with other industry players other Information Papers on ICAO’s role in supporting the energy transition to sustainable aviation fuels, the industry view on delivering a long-term climate goal for aviation, and the cost of achieving net zero carbon in aviation.

For those interested in learning more about ACI’s work at ICAO’s 41st Assembly, please visit aci.aero/all4one.

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