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Sho Kataoka, manager of NAA’s Airport Sustainability Office, explains why Tokyo Narita has introduced an even more focused and ambitious sustainability plan.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has led to extremely tough times for Narita International Airport, with significant suspension and reduction of passenger flights due to travel restrictions for the last two years. 

In addition, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were held in principle with no spectators in COVID-19, and it was difficult to take advantage of the opportunity.

There are, however, signs of recovery and Narita International Airport – supported by stakeholders – is beginning to see its traffic figures rise again as international services start to resume.

In fact, new services have been launched by ZIPAIR (Los Angeles), Aero Mongolia (Ulaanbaatar) and Bamboo Airways (Hanoi) since December 2021.

Indeed, with an eye on the future, we must steadily proceed with a series of projects designed to enhance the operational capabilities of the airport, the most high-profile of which is the construction of a new runway. 

Our commitment to the sustainable development of Narita and being a good neighbour to local residents means that we will make every effort to obtain their understanding for the projects, and take measures to reduce our environmental impact, as we seek to successfully co-exist with them going forward.

At Narita International Airport, we have promoted various initiatives based on the following four pillars:

  • Community environment initiatives
  • Resource recycling initiatives
  • Climate change initiatives
  • Environment management. 

For climate change in particular, more frequent and intense natural disasters globally ensure that reducing CO2 emissions is one of the most critical issues, and airports have responded to the challenge. 

Thus, NAA released its ‘Sustainable NRT 2050’ in March 2021 to promote further climate change initiatives. 

To realise a sustainable society and become one of the world leading airports, we have set medium to long-term goals that include a net-zero target, which is the first among airport operators in Japan, and counter measures to decrease CO2 emissions with stakeholders throughout the airport. Under the framework, we will successively conduct our environmental measures based on the above categories. 

With stronger relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders, we strive to achieve our goals to become a sustainable airport which grows in an environmentally-friendly and ethical way. 

Climate change in particular has been the focus of our efforts over many years to conserve energy through the introduction of renewable energy, LED lighting and energy management systems. 

This has led to progress in sustainable and cumulative results such as a decrease in airport emissions of carbon dioxide per landing and takeoff cycle of around 16% over a four-year period from 2015.

However, today with statistics showing more frequent and increasingly severe natural disasters with global warming as the perceived cause, climate change is an international issue, and reducing carbon emissions has become one of our most important goals requiring collaborated initiatives with speed at a global scale. 

In conjunction with this, there is strong pressure on people to fly less, but because Japan is an island nation, we are basically limited to aviation as a means of travelling overseas. Unlike in Europe, for example, switching to rail as an alternative mode of transport is not an option for us. 

For island nations, the aviation sector is a social infrastructure that must grow sustainably. 

We believe that Sustainable NRT 2050 provides a brand new approach to reducing our environmental impact at Narita Airport, with mid-term targets for decarbonisation by fiscal year 2030 and long-term targets to be achieved by FY2050.

In particular, this is the first time in Japan that an airport operator has set Net Zero and numerical targets for the airport overall (50% reduction compared to FY2015).

Sustainable NRT 2050 sets out not only targets but also initiatives for reaching them. They include the ‘Introduction of Advanced Technologies’ to accelerate drastic carbon reduction; ‘Next Actions’ to engage employee awareness and induce changes in behaviour; and as a measure, we are steadily promoting ‘Further Functional Enhancement’, which includes the construction of a new runway while reducing the burden on the environment as much as possible. 

In line with introducing renewable energy, we aim for Net Zero by 2050 with further new technologies such as energy switching to zero carbon fuels and conversion of buildings to net zero energy.

It is worth noting that while CO2 emissions from the NAA corporate group account for just 10% of the total emissions from entire Narita Airport site, we plan to configure the layout in our airport expansion plans to reduce aircraft taxiing distances by 30%, thereby reducing carbon emissions from aircraft.  

We are also working with stakeholders to develop a system for introducing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in the aircraft fuel facilities operated by NAA, and are holding discussions with the aim of achieving zero-carbonisation for ground services equipment (GSE) vehicles. 

In addition to Sustainable NRT 2050, we have also launched our ‘Plastic Smart’ declaration, with the aim of working towards 100% sustainability for plastic items used in the restaurants and lounges operated by the NAA group by FY2025. 

We have already completely switched over from plastic straws to paper straws in the restaurants and lounges we operate and some of those have introduced wooden straws made from selectively logged wood that support forest management for tree growth and protection from natural disasters.

And we are not just concentrating on things under our own control as we are stepping up our efforts to reduce plastic waste throughout the entire airport.

We also have plans to completely eliminate petroleum-derived Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles in the vending machines at NAA and will reduce those in our in-house shops by 50%, thus presenting a lead model example to demonstrate and promote its wide usage throughout the airport. 

Looking forward, we remain committed to building on our co-operation with our many stakeholders and providing them with an airport that is environment and community minded in its approach to the sustainable development of Narita International Airport.

For more information on our efforts to reduce environmental impact at Narita Airport, please see our Environmental Report. https://www.naa.jp/en/environment/index.html

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