Joffrey Maï explains how VINCI Airports is rolling out the group’s pioneering global environmental strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.
VINCI Airports is leveraging its position as one of the world’s biggest airport operators to enhance the environmental performance of its Asia-Pacific gateways and help set the sustainability bar for airports across the globe.
Asia, of course, has a special meaning for us as it is where we took our first steps in the airport concessions industry in 1995 by taking over responsibility for operating and developing Cambodia’s Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville airports.
We have since added Kansai international, Osaka and Kobe airports in Japan, so now operate six airports in the region that handled a total of 63.4 million passengers between them in 2019.
This long-term presence has given us the experience and capacity to genuinely understand the changing socio-economic and environmental issues in Asia.
And with the World Economic Forum estimating that the number of middle-class people across the region will grow from 2 billion now to 3.5 billion in 2030, Asia faces a long-term mobility demand, which will require efficient and quality infrastructure while accelerating the path towards environmental sustainability.
In 2016, VINCI Airports became the first global airport operator to launch an international environmental action plan for its entire network. And just five years after this major decision, all our airports have committed to a net zero carbon transition.
In Japan, Osaka and Kansai international airports were the first in Japan to achieve Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) Level 2 in 2016 and upgraded to Level 3 in 2018. Kobe airport also achieved ACA Level 2 in 2018.
In doing so, operator, Kansai Airports, reduced its CO2 emissions by 11% between FY2016 and FY2019 and will continue to upgrade its ACA. While in 2020, despite the COVID-19 crisis, all our Cambodian airports reached Level 2 for their CO2 emissions scope 1 and 2 reduction.
This positive dynamic is the result of a global environmental action plan we have been implementing in Asia for the past five years, with two major focuses. The desire to improve our airports’ environmental performance and bring solutions to our clients and stakeholders, beyond our perimeter.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
At Kansai international Airport, we have been constantly improving the operational efficiency of equipment, solar and water treatment plants and infrastructure based on an energy dashboard that relies on a building energy management system (BEMS). The solution analyses data from the airport’s air conditioning and heating systems in order to make energy savings.
While in Cambodia in December 2020, our teams completed a project to replace the runway lights at our airports with more efficient and less consuming LED lights, which will reduce their respective airfield electricity costs by 20% to 25% per annum.
Still in Cambodia, back in 2016, we invested in building wastewater treatment plants at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports, which reduced the load on the city’s own treatment station.
Indeed, by using the latest-generation technologies, sludge from the wastewater treatment process is recycled into fertilizer, which is provided to communities surrounding the airports.
Similarly, in 2019 Osaka Airport became the first major Japanese airport to feature a groundwater treatment facility that extracts groundwater and purifies it by use of biofilters and osmosis membranes.
The process enables us to meet 50% of the airport’s potable water demand, and in the unlikely event that the municipal water supply is cut off due to a disaster, the facility will provide not only a reliable lifeline for the airport but also emergency drinking water to residents in the surrounding communities.
So, as you can see, the wastewater treatment plants at our airports are a key component of our strategy built around turning environmental challenges into opportunities.
We are also big fans of renewable energy, and in January 2020, installed 4,180 solar panels on the roof of Terminal 2 at Kansai International Airport in a bid to reduce the airport’s energy costs and save around 600 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
Finally, yet just as importantly, we have replaced 300 vehicles with zero-emission equivalents across our three Japanese airports, effectively meaning that petrol and diesel-powered trucks, buses and other support vehicles have been replaced by electric vehicles.
PIONEERS FOR OUR ECO-SYSTEM
The second step in our plan to encourage the decarbonisation of the aviation industry is to encourage stakeholders such as the airlines, services providers and passengers to commit to lowering their carbon footprint.
In other words, our approach aims at acting not only on Scope 1 and 2, but also as a driver of change on Scope 3. We are, for example, already working in close partnership with the airlines to reduce their energy consumption during the parking process.
At Phnom Penh International Airport in May 2021, for instance, we installed Fixed Electrical Ground Power (FEGP) and Pre-Conditioned Air (PCA) units at aircraft parking bays, effectively making noisy, CO2 polluting Auxiliary Power Units (APU) redundant.
We also believe that involving passengers in our environmental journey is important and, in line with this strategy, we have installed electric charging and hydrogen stations at our three Japanese airports as well as a new rapid charger at Osaka Airport to promote the use of zero-emissions vehicles.
THINKING OUTSIDE OF THE BOX
We are confident that our extensive global airport network – VINCI Airports operates or has a major interest in 45 airports in 12 countries across the world – will provide a constant source of knowledge and fresh ideas on our journey to zero-emission airports in Asia.
Our next major goal will be to halve our carbon emissions and the water consumption by passengers in our terminals by 2030.
We have also not forgotten about the need to encourage airlines to use more environmentally-friendly aircraft at our airports.
As a result, VINCI Airports is set to become the first airport operator in the region to introduce a sliding scale of airport charges for aircraft based on their environmental performance. This effectively means that operators of the most polluting aircraft will pay more than those using more modern low-emission aircraft.
Next on the agenda are plans to emulate the success of the ‘carbon sink’ at Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport in France in Cambodia.
A carbon sink is any reservoir, natural or otherwise, that accumulates and stores carbon-containing chemical compounds for an indefinite period, subsequently lowering the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.
We will strive to capitalise on Cambodia’s forestry potential to create Asia’s first network of carbon sinked airports. If successful, the carbon sinks will absorb the airports’ residual emissions that will help them to achieve zero net emissions.
Pragmatism is at the heart of our sustainability efforts and decarbonisation strategy, and our actions have led to VINCI Airports becoming a driver of transformation in Asia and across the world.