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Investing in Sustainabilty


It might not seem like a priority right now, but ACI World has revealed that more than $2.4 trillion will have to be spent on enhancing the infrastructure of the world’s airports by 2040 in order to meet future demand.

The size of the task ahead – which will include modernising existing facilities as well as building new terminals, runways and new airports – is outlined in the association’s report, The Global Outlook of Airport Capital Expenditure – Meeting Sustainable Development Goals and Future Air Travel Demand.

The report forecasts a capital need of $1.3 trillion for Asia-Pacific airports, accounting for 54% of the global requirement. Middle East airports will need $151 billion in capital expenditure, or 6% of the global requirement.

The projections incorporate the need to align capacity expansion projects with sustainability and decarbonisation goals.

To respond to the region’s rapid passenger growth, about 44% of the 2021–2040 Asia-Pacific regional airport capital expenditure or $580 million is forecasted to be allocated to the construction of greenfield airports.

In the Middle East, greenfield airport projects are expected to comprise around 36%, or $54 billion, of total regional airport capital expenditure.

“Failure to address the capacity needs to meet the 2040 passenger demand will have profound socio-economic consequences, in terms of job and GDP losses but also congestion and damage to the environment,” says Stefano Baronci, director general of ACI Asia-Pacific.

While some airports have deferred or suspended capital investments over the course of the pandemic, many in major and fast-developing aviation markets such as Australia, China, Japan, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam have continued their capital expenditure plans given the long-term horizon that goes well beyond the potential duration of the crisis.

Airports have long taken a leadership role in addressing, minimising, and mitigating the environmental impacts of aviation. The report shows it takes an average of six years to achieve carbon neutral accreditation under the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme.

To realise the ambitious pathways to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the stated long-term carbon goal of ACI member airports, additional capital investment decisions by airports, such as investment in energy-efficient infrastructure and retrofitting, low emissions/electric vehicles and equipment and construction of onsite or offsite renewable energy facilities, might be required.

“For many airports in Asia and the Middle East, planning for the future means being ready to welcome the passengers of the future while also investing today for a more sustainable infrastructure with a diminished carbon footprint,” notes Baronci.

“Historical data shows that airports that achieved carbon neutrality status, invested an average of 12% more capital. By making additional investments now to reduce energy consumption and convert to zero carbon emissions sources, airports will position themselves as sustainable stewards for the future.”

The report was funded by Hamad International Airport (DOH), whose chief operating officer, Badr Mohammed Al-Meer, notes: “The longevity of the global aviation industry can be significantly enhanced by investing in sustainable aviation infrastructure and developing clear sustainability goals.”

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