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Airport Authority Hong Kong is determined to take the lead in integrating carbon management, sustainable best practices and green design across the airport campus, writes general manager for sustainability, Peter Lee.

Climate change has become one of the most pressing global issues in recent years and there has been increasing public concern over the aviation sector’s impact on global emissions, of which airports operations account for around 2% of these emissions. 

Aligning with ACI’s Long Term Carbon Goal of Net Zero Carbon by 2050, and responding to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) call for all sectors to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK), as the operator of Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), launched a new airport-wide Net Zero Carbon target late last year. 

This commitment is one of the first for airports in Asia and demonstrates AAHK’s aspiration to develop HKG into one of the world’s greenest airports through a clear response to the United Nations’ Paris Agreement. 

Sustainability and environmental considerations are an integral part of AAHK’s strategy for developing the airport. Indeed, it is committed to ensuring that environmental impacts are managed and, whenever possible, minimised at all stages of development projects through the implementation of its Green Design and Construction Strategy. 

Airport-wide pledge for Net Zero Carbon by 2050

In November 2021, AAHK launched its third carbon pledge since 2010, this time committing to a goal of Net Zero Carbon by 2050 at HKG, with a midpoint target of 55% reduction of absolute emissions by 2035 from a 2018 baseline. 

As in previous pledges, AAHK has adopted an airport-wide approach and has jointly committed to Net Zero Carbon with 29 of its key aviation-related business partners which account for about 90% of the carbon footprint at HKG.

The long-term carbon target was set based on an 18-month study on a roadmap to net zero emissions by 2050. The study included comprehensive engagement with relevant operation and engineering departments, key business partners in the airport community and the power provider to develop a robust carbon model. 

This model includes a carbon emissions projection, reduction pathways, target trajectory and a realistic midpoint target in 2035. A carbon management action plan was developed to outline key initiatives to achieve the target, including acceleration of the electrification of vehicles and equipment, piloting of low carbon fuels and implementation of innovative energy efficiency measures. 

AAHK has been pursuing vehicle/equipment electrification and energy saving programmes to accelerate decarbonisation at HKG. Airfield vehicles and equipment have been replaced by electrified models since 2017, along with the expansion of the airport’s electric charging network. 

AAHK also pioneered an innovative ground services equipment (GSE) pooling scheme for ramp handling agents, with the aim of minimising emissions from apron traffic and speeding up GSE electrification.  

With regard to energy saving, AAHK was one of the first organisations in Hong Kong to undertake a mass transition to LED lighting in the passenger terminal buildings and airfield. AAHK has also implemented innovative energy management solutions such as developing a system to control the passenger terminal’s air conditioning through accurate prediction based on big data. 

All of these initiatives aim to reduce direct emissions at the airport and indirect emissions from the consumption of electricity and gas.

To support business partners in achieving the Net Zero Carbon target, a ‘Business Partner Carbon Support Programme’ has been designed, comprising a HK$20 million fund to be launched by AAHK to support business partners in piloting new technologies in carbon reduction; a tailored capacity building programme to help impart essential skills and knowledge in carbon management; and a working group to encourage collaboration across the airport community.

AAHK’s NEW Green Airport Design and Construction Strategy

In addition to implementing its flagship carbon management programme, AAHK strives to adopt environmental best practices and innovative solutions in the design and construction of airport buildings and infrastructure. 

AAHK has a proven track record of implementing best practices and innovations in construction projects. The T1 Midfield Concourse, for example, was certified with a Final Gold rating by the Hong Kong Green Building Council (HKGBC) under the BEAM Plus Scheme – a programme to assess sustainability of buildings via independent assessment. 

HKG’s Sky Bridge and the new office building of AAHK have also received provisional Gold BEAM ratings prior to commencement. 

As part of the Three-runway System (3RS) project, the expanded Terminal 2 and T2 Concourse have already been certified with Provisional Platinum ratings, the highest accreditation under HKGBC’s BEAM Plus while works are continuing. 

AAHK has established a Green Airport Design Strategy to ensure priority is consistently and systematically accorded to environmental and green design elements
as early as possible in project development, and that these elements are implemented in the actual works. 

Green design features include the use of high energy-performance glazing, sustainable wall and roof materials, energy-efficient lighting and a high-efficiency chiller system, and optimised greenery that takes into account the need to control any increased risk of bird hazards, among others.  

With the achievement obtained from the 3RS Green Airport Design Strategy, AAHK has taken a further step in July 2021 by launching an airport-wide Green Airport Design and Construction Strategy, which provides a consistent approach for embedding green design and sustainable construction considerations as early as possible in the project development process, in both its building and non-building infrastructure projects. 

This approach – ideally adopted in the design stage – is currently in the pilot phase and extends to franchisees and other business partners at HKG to ensure that sustainable development is integrated across all development projects at the airport. 

Towards the greenest airport

Against the backdrop of the changing and challenging economic, ecological, technological and social environment, our vision is to develop a robust culture of sustainability in every facet of our operations to drive sustainable growth at Hong Kong International Airport.

As a top priority, AAHK continues to work with the airport community to significantly reduce or eliminate carbon emissions altogether and contribute to worldwide efforts to limit global warming to 1.5ºC in the years ahead.

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