More than 100 companies and organizations have joined The Climate Pledge since it was co-founded by Amazon together with the environmental organization Global Optimism in 2019. Most of them came on board this year, as signatories doubled between FEB21 and APR21. The Climate Pledge has now welcomed its third Canadian signatory and world’s first international airport member: Edmonton International Airport (EIA), Canada’s fifth busiest airport, and its largest by land size, recently committed to become carbon neutral by 2040.
- Regular Reporting – regularly measuring and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions
- Carbon Elimination – implementing decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through real business changes and innovations, including efficiency improvements, renewable energy, materials reductions, and other carbon emission elimination strategies
- Credible Offsets - neutralizing any remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent, and socially beneficial offsets to achieve net zero annual carbon emissions by 2040
Welcoming EIA on board
Sumegha Kumar, Director of Canadian Customer Fulfillment Operations at Amazon, stated: “We are pleased to welcome the Edmonton International Airport as the first airport to sign The Climate Pledge, joining more than 100 companies around the world who are committed to addressing climate change and saving the planet for future generations. The Edmonton International Airport is showing important leadership in committing to the ambitious goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, and we look forward to working alongside them.”
Tom Ruth, President and CEO, Edmonton International Airport, explained the decision to join: “Climate change is a real and serious concern, and one of the biggest issues of our time. It is all our responsibility to acknowledge and address global sustainability for future generations. By signing the Climate Pledge, Edmonton Airports is demonstrating to our community and the world that we are dedicated to sustainability and to reducing carbon emissions. Sustainability is inherent in all that we do, and we continue to make significant progress towards our goal of net zero.” Myron Keehn, Vice-President of Air Services and Business Development added: “We’re able to make this commitment by working through all the different partners we have … including our airlines to decarbonize aviation.”
So what does this mean for EIA?
EIA has established that around 70% of its CO2e (Carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions derive from electricity usage, and though it has already managed to reduce its energy figures by 50% over the past 20 years, it has outlined further carbon emission reduction projects that it is already working on or has planned for the future. These include installing the world’s largest, airport-based solar farm known as Airport City Solar, where construction is planned to start in 2022 once the project has been approved by the authorities. EIA installed and recently began operating its first co-generation power units which are expected to reduce electricity and heat related emissions by approximately 20% (7,000-8,000 tons of CO2e/per annum). Since 2015, the airport has systematically worked to replace around 18,000 lightbulbs and fixtures with LEDs in its facilities, to minimize energy usage.
Passengers can opt to offset
The airport, which also participates in the third-party verified Airport Carbon Accreditation program managed by Airports Council International aimed at supporting airports to reduce carbon emissions, was clear in its press release that it would not be passing on any costs related to its Climate Pledge to its passengers. Instead, it was working on offering them options to directly offset or help to lower carbon emissions linked to their flights and actions at the airport. These would be on a voluntary basis. It suggested that passenger could today already opt to use public transit to travel to and from EIA, and pointed to plans for a LRT (Light Rail Transit) connection into the City of Edmonton due to be implemented in the future.
What’s in it for cargo?
“Our cargo operations have grown immensely in the past five years, especially during this pandemic, and we urgently need to expand to position the Edmonton Metropolitan Region as a major cargo hub. By investing in expanding our cargo capacity, our air pipelines, we’re well positioned for more flights, more jobs, more investment to benefit everyone,” said Myron Keehn, Vice-President of Air Service and Business Development announced in FEB21 when the airport was awarded an $18M grant from the Government of Canada under the National Trades Corridor Fund to support its $36M expansion of cargo operations. Earlier last week, he played it down somewhat, stating “Cargo will never drive our business in the same way as passenger traffic, but growing it is key to our long-term fiscal sustainability and revenue diversification. Our expansion project will take roughly two years to be fully complete, and it’s exciting to think about what our operations could look like in five years, 10 years’ time.” The airport had seen a throughput of 46,000 metric tons of cargo in 2020, up 7.5% from the previous year.
So are there plans for greener cargo?
Environmental sustainability is not expressly mentioned in the airline’s cargo expansion plans in its press release, though “we plan to incorporate technology and innovation, and our systems will be designed to maximise efficiencies for e-commerce and express cargo goods.” Greater efficiencies generally do translate into better and more sustainable management of resources The project foresees expanding the cargo-area apron to 47,000 m² to accommodate another 2 widebody freighters, bringing the total parallel handling capacity to 5 cargo planes. The CEIV-certified airport will also see an increase in its cold storage cargo capacities by 1,400 m², bringing its cold storage area to almost 2,000 m² in total. And, lastly, EIA will install a new hydrant fueling system specific for cargo refueling needs, linking to its two 2-million-liter Shell Aviation Fuel tanks, and thus doing away with the current truck-based fueling system. Aside from increasing apron safety, there is certainly a large green element having faster and more efficient refueling via hydrants, and far less trucks on the apron.
The expansion project is still in the design phase, and – given the recent Climate Pledge signature, will no doubt incorporate sustainability more obviously in its final plans. Construction is planned to start late this year and aims to be completed within two years, by 2023.
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