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Commentary: Carbon neutral airports are an important step in sustainability – Next, Finavia aims at net zero emissions

Article published
21.9.2020 at 13:06
Mikko Viinikainen, kestävä kehitys
Thanks to committed, long-term work, all Finavia airports became carbon neutral 2019. The next goal is net zero carbon emissions, which can already be achieved in the 2030s, writes Mikko Viinikainen, Vice President, Sustainability, Finavia.

Carbon neutrality means that we have first minimised our airports’ carbon dioxide emissions, and then compensated the remaining emissions. Between 2007 and 2018 Finavia’s carbon emissions were cut from 2.2 kilos to 1.3 kilos per passenger. When we take into account the switch to emission-free wind electricity, the emissions were 2019 only 0.6 kilos per passenger. This amount was then compensated on the voluntary carbon market.

We have worked persistently on reducing our emissions and doing our own part in cutting down the climate impact of air traffic. As an airport operator, we want to offer people and society the possibility to travel by air – along with all the social and economic benefits it brings – in the future as well.

To achieve carbon neutrality, we’ve made concrete investments and improvements in energy efficiency. We use emission-free wind electricity and produce our own electricity with solar panels on Helsinki Airport’s rooftop. Our apron vehicles have switched to renewable diesel in all Finavia airports. At network airports, we use renewable energy sources, such as wood pellets, for heating. Ten of 21 Finavia airports are heated with Finnish wood-based biofuel.

Our compensations are done through financing projects that reduce carbon emissions elsewhere. At the moment, we support a compensation project in Ghana that replaces wood stoves with more efficient, low-emission stoves. The large-scale project reduces up to a million tonnes of carbon emissions. Finavia takes part by contributing a sum that corresponds to our airports’ remaining emissions. Thus, our carbon balance comes down to zero, meaning our airports are carbon neutral.

Carbon neutrality is, however, not the end point of our climate work, but the beginning. Currently we compensate around 45% of our emissions, and we are now working on bringing this share down.

Our next goal is to reach net zero carbon emissions. That means that Finavia airports will be at zero emissions without compensations.

In June 2019, we signed an agreement with Airports Council International, wherein dozens of airport operators around the world expressed their commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. We in Finland aim to achieve this goal a lot faster, as early as the 2030s. That is what we are working for right now.

Zero emission airports are one part of low-carbon air travel. It’s important that all other players in the industry – from aircraft manufacturers to airlines and ground handling companies – do their part in bringing about low-emission flying.

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