Airports are strongly impacted by extreme weather events, whose frequency is expected to increase in the upcoming years due to the changing climate. Examples of how climate change can impact airport operations include:
Warmer summers and colder winters raise electricity and fuel consumption used for chillers and boilers.
Reduced precipitation affects water supply resources and exacerbates groundwater depletion.
Changes in wind direction and speed increase sandstorms and fire risks and reduce visibility.
95% of direct emissions related to airport activities emanate from fuel and electricity consumption (Scopes 1 and 2). Several actions have been taken over the past six years to reduce energy consumption. In 2019, the carbon dioxide emissions generated directly by Airport International Group as a result of its fuel and electricity consumption amounted to 26,017 tCO2 compared with 26,688 tCO2 in 2018 - marking a 2.5% decline. Additional greenhouse gases (methane and nitrous oxide) were recorded at 17.22 tCO2.
Emissions resulting from aircraft movement and service providers (Scope 3) reached 220,956 tCO2 - up 5.3% compared with 2018 - as QAIA welcomed 8,924,080 passengers during 2019, 498,954 passengers more (+5.9%) than in the previous year.
Since 2013, Airport International Group has been participating in the Airport Carbon Accreditation Program - the only voluntary global carbon management standard for airports - which encompasses four levels, as per the below:
Level 1 ‘Mapping’: An airport must understand how much carbon it emits every year and from which activities and operations in order to plan its limitation. Therefore, as a first step, an airport needs to measure its carbon emissions, also known as its carbon footprint.
Airport International Group completed Level 1 in Q2 2013, soon after the QAIA New Terminal was inaugurated. This level was maintained throughout 2014.
Level 2 ‘Reduction’: Once an airport has measured its carbon footprint, it can work towards reducing its carbon emissions. This process is known as carbon management and involves a diverse range of measures, by which an airport should:
Show it has a low carbon/energy policy.
Show that a senior committee holds responsibility for climate change and carbon/energy matters.
Have carbon/energy reduction targets.
Communicate emissions performance to relevant stakeholders and undertake emissions awareness training for employees.
Monitor fuel and energy consumption.
Implement programs or control mechanisms to ensure operations minimize emissions.
In 2015, Airport International Group successfully completed the requirements of Level 2, making QAIA the first airport in the Middle East to obtain the ‘Reduction’ level.
Level 3 ‘Optimization’: This ACA level requires third-party engagement in carbon footprint reduction. Third parties include airlines and various service providers, such as independent ground handlers, catering companies and others working onsite.
Emissions related to service providers (Scope 3) must be measured and included in the carbon footprint report, as below:
· Landing and take-off cycle emissions.
· Passengers and staff surface access to the airport.
· Staff business travel emissions.
· Any other Scope 3 emissions that the airport chooses to include.
Level 3+ ‘Neutrality’: Carbon neutrality is achieved when the net carbon dioxide emissions over an entire year is zero. Achieving carbon neutrality at an airport is almost impossible without external help. For this reason, airports, among many other industries, look to carbon offsetting as the final part of the solution. Carbon offsetting is providing funds or resources to other projects that reduce carbon dioxide so as to make up for the emissions that they cannot eliminate. For example, an airport could pay for a wind energy facility that replaces a coal-fired power plant.
In 2018, QAIA achieved the highest level of the ACA Program - Level 3+ ‘Neutrality’ - making it the first airport in the Middle East to achieve this distinguished accomplishment.
As clarified previously, offsetting carbon emissions generated from Scopes 1 and 2 is mandatory. For this reason, Airport International Group has retired a total of 26,762 tCO2, which were offset by the Gullubag Hepp and Uluabat Hydro-Electric Power Plants in Turkey.
Airport International Group is currently evaluating the implementation of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) in Jordan. CDR involves the extraction of CO2 from the atmosphere and its subsequent storage through natural and technological processes - often referred to as Negative Emission Technologies (NET). Attention is being paid to NETs, but the required investment would be significant, and the potential to upscale current technologies has yet to be fully assessed. The concept of CDR arises out of the necessity to reach net zero carbon by 2050 in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. This will require balancing any residual (remaining) emissions by removing an equal amount from the atmosphere through CDR. Accordingly, there may be a temptation to focus on forestry and agricultural solutions, however, the concern here relates to reversal (such as ineffective forest protection, forest fires) and the time taken for forests to grow back (i.e. carbon removal).