Accelerating airports’ climate action with ICAO

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Climate change is not a distant threat; it is a reality that demands our immediate attention and action. The decisions we make now will shape the world we leave behind for generations to come. Those were words of ICAO Secretary General Juan Carlos Salazar as he launched ICAO’s two-day Seminar on Green Airports in Athens. The Minister of Infrastructure and Transport of Greece, Mr. Christos Staikouras and the Deputy Minister of Environment and Energy, Ms. Alexandra Sdoukou, opened the event on 18 April 2024 that was organized with the support of the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority.

Encompassing a broad spectrum of environmental airport activities and operations, the Seminar offered a diverse range of stakeholders a crucially important opportunity to engage in knowledge transfer through the sharing of their environmental initiatives, experiences and lessons learned. This translated to increased awareness and enhanced dialogue and cooperation at a time when progress towards decarbonization is more urgently needed than ever.

Ms. Jane Hupe, ICAO’s Deputy Director on Environment emphasized that “climate change is a reality that demands our immediate action. As the aviation sector, we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to be a driving force of change”.

Building on the momentum
The Green Airport event followed two key milestones on aviation’s path to a sustainable future, namely the 41st ICAO Assembly’s adoption of a long-term global aspirational goal (LTAG) for international aviation of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and the adoption of the ICAO Global Framework for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), Lower Carbon Aviation Fuels (LCAF) and other Aviation Cleaner Energies at the Third ICAO Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3) in Dubai in November 2023.

A key focus of the Green Airports Seminar was on identifying pragmatic pathways for accelerating progress on the implementation of these landmark decisions. Discussions encompassed ambitious net-zero goals and roadmaps for airports, as well as the transition to sustainable aviation fuels, lower carbon aviation fuels, and cleaner energy sources. The Seminar also covered emerging environmental subjects, such as innovations in airport management, circular economy, biodiversity, and climate adaptation.

The opportunity and challenge of financing green projects and innovations was a cross-cutting theme, with a focus on the importance of connecting and facilitating project developers’ access to public and private funding from financial institutions.

Dr. Christos Tsitouras, Governor-Director General, Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority, highlighted that “this event created a dialogue and synergies between various stakeholders. The Seminar gave the international community the opportunity to engage with not only airports, airlines, manufacturers, but also fuel producers, investors, banks, associations, international organizations, among other stakeholders”.

Next steps

Increasing information sharing and coordination between all stakeholders is crucial for the green transition of the aviation sector. Reflecting that, ICAO will build on the success of the Green Airports Seminar by organizing the Symposium on non-CO2 Aviation Emissions from 16 to 18 September and the LTAG Stocktaking event from 7 to 10 October 2024, both of which will take place in Montreal.

ICAO is supporting the progress being made at its environmental protection meetings through the undertaking of a wide variety of specially targeted initiatives. For example, the Assistance, Capacity Building and Training programme for SAF (ACT-SAF) comprises over 150 States and Organizations and provides training, feasibility studies, support for SAF certification and policy development, and the implementation of SAF projects for States.

Addressing the challenges of plastic usage in aviation

Addressing the challenges of plastic usage in aviation is of key importance to the international community. Accordingly, the 2024 ICAO Green Airports Seminar also dedicated a specific session to this topic. Discussions showcased the aviation sector’s strong support for the ongoing work of UNEP in this area, along with the negotiation process to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.