Airports focused on creating a more sustainable future

Guest Author by Guest Author | Mar 5, 2021

Written by Marion Town, Director, Climate & Environment, Vancouver Airport Authority

Commercial aviation continues to face the impacts of COVID-19 with dramatic reductions in passenger and flight volumes. While the industry is adapting to changing travel requirements and innovations to shape a new era of travel we have also taken the opportunity to rethink our operations. This includes designing strategies to restart in ways that not only enables us to thrive in a post-pandemic world but to also shape a greener and more resilient future.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions remains a key focus area for our industry in this regard. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns us that ambitious actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are needed in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C while achieving sustainable development.

Curbing emissions in the air, through changes in aircraft technology and the uptake in use of low carbon sustainable aviation fuel, is essential but currently quite costly. This puts a greater importance on airports to take a more immediate role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a contribution to the industry.

At Vancouver International Airport (YVR), we are taking this opportunity to accelerate our ambition to eliminate carbon emissions from our operations by 20 years—with a commitment to be net zero in 2030 versus 2050.

Reducing our footprint and that of our supply chain

For many years, global airports have taken action to reduce their impact on the environment. To help guide our environmental priorities at YVR, we develop an Environmental Management Plan every five years and leverage those goal statements to make great strides in diverting waste from the landfill, improving ecosystem health and reducing our water consumption.

Additionally, we have supported low carbon aircraft ground support equipment and installed gate infrastructure that allows aircraft to plug into clean electricity. We have also invested in transit, retrofitted buildings and lighting systems and are leading work with government and airlines championing the use of sustainable aviation fuel.

Net-zero airport operations by 2030

At YVR, we are focused on a number of key strategic areas, including climate. To achieve our target of net zero emissions by 2030, we have identified six decarbonization pathways and will be pursuing:

  1. Renewable fuels – like renewable natural gas and renewable diesel
  2. Electrifying our fleet – converting the rest of our light duty vehicles
  3. Green electrification – working with BC Hydro on 100% green electricity offerings
  4. On-site renewable energy supply – like solar photovoltaics and geoexchange
  5. Conservation and retrofits – improving lighting and air systems efficiency
  6. Closing the gap – Carbon removals and sequestration.

Leading the way to a greener future

Like our industry colleagues, we continue to adapt to evolving travel requirements while preparing thoughtfully for the return of passengers in a new era.

Airports, like the rest of the aviation sector, are focused on collaborative action to ensure that their assets can be used by a decarbonized industry in the decades to come. Planning and long-term thinking are second nature to the airport sector, but become even more important now as we work to be able to support the industry’s green growth in particular. YVR’s Strategic Plan outlines a path to recovery to support a thriving region with ambitious goals to be net zero by 2030. Congratulations YVR on this bold step.

Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General, ACI World

As we look ahead, climate and environmental sustainability will remain top of mind as our industry looks to create a greener and more resilient future, ensuring everyone can explore our world once again with the smallest carbon footprint possible.

At YVR, we look forward to continuing our environmental journey and working together with our partners and as an industry to reduce the carbon impact of air travel.

Learn more about YVR’s 2021 Strategic Plan and approach to environmental sustainability.

Marion joined the Airport Authority in 2014 and leads an innovative team of professionals working to reduce the airport’s environmental footprint. Marion is guided by YVR’s Board of Directors and Executive team to ensure that high environmental standards are maintained and significant environmental and accreditation programs such as Salmon Safe and Airport Carbon Accreditation are successfully implemented. Marion has over thirty years of experience in government and consulting, working on a broad range of projects for municipal, provincial, federal governments as well as private organizations.  A professional planner, her experience in environmental assessment, energy and emissions planning, waste management, sustainable transportation, fisheries renewal, sustainability and collaborative governance has all been applicable to her work at YVR.  

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