Delivering a sustainable aviation recovery

Delivering a sustainable aviation recovery

Sustainability as a real and effective commitment to the environment is no longer an ethereal notion: it is essential and unavoidable, says Amparo Brea, Innovation, Sustainability and Customer Experience Director at Aena

Environmental, social and corporate governance criteria are no longer an option to bring about change. The European Union's framework plan for green transformation, growing social awareness and the consequent regulatory pressure are forcing the industry to reflect deeply on sustainable practices. The path is already marked; it is not advisable to be left behind.

Additionally, the uncertainty derived from the impact of the COVID crisis and the necessary allocation of European Recovery Funds to projects that prioritise sustainability and digitalisation, has provided an even greater boost.

If we focus on the air transport sector, the COVID-19 pandemic and its ramifications are posing a major challenge for our industry’s survival. It is especially significant in Spain due to the importance of tourism for the country, an industry that currently accounts for more than 12% of national gross domestic product (GDP) and where four out of every five international travellers who come to Spain choose air travel as their means of transport.

This has made us realise the importance of thinking ahead as a way to address the major threat of climate change, and we were clear that the industry’s recovery plan had to factor in the ongoing climate and ecological crisis we are facing.

Therefore, in terms of sustainability, and in spite of the current situation, our environmental performance is still a key priority in our management approach. As such, our strategic strands are built on the principle of green reconstruction so we can accomplish our decarbonisation and environmental protection commitments by working in partnership with our stakeholders.

At Aena we have been working for years to protect our environment. We have a large team that watches over the protection and conservation of the environment at our airports, under the framework of the Quality, Environment and Energy Efficiency Policy that had its first version in 1999.

In 2018 Aena's Board of Directors approved the company’s Climate Change Strategy. This strategy is aimed at maximising energy efficiency and promoting the use of energy from renewable sources for self-consumption, as well as the implementation of innovative solutions to reduce the company's carbon footprint. At the same time and as a result of all the above, Aena's commitment to sustainability and the fight against climate change has been valued and recognised throughout 2019 and 2020 by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), granting the rating “Management A”. This is the highest level awarded by CDP, placing Aena among only seven Spanish companies that have obtained this score and one of the few European airport companies that have this rating.

"At AENA we are convinced that sustainability is more than a manual of good intentions, it is a decisive factor in our management and performance."

The Strategy has recently been revised and reinforced, with more ambitious objectives:

  • Aena's carbon neutrality programme in 2026;
  • Advance to 2040 the Net Zero commitment of ACI EUROPE, to be 0 net emissions in all the airports of the network.

But it is important to note that airports account for only a small part of total emissions in the aviation industry.

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This means we need to work closely with aircraft manufacturers, airlines, air traffic service providers, fuel producers, handling firms and other partners and stakeholders as a coordinated action group to put in place projects taking an integrated approach to the challenge of decarbonising the industry.

To this end, Aena is engaged in promotion and partnership initiatives such as:

  • Implementing new collaborative measures to enhance the efficiency of airport operations and lessen European airspace congestion by cutting waiting times and flight times;
  • Licensing requirements for handling agents to replace equipment with less polluting alternatives;
  • Promotional actions to scale up production and subsequent distribution of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at airports.

But we can still do more and that is why this year we have taken a big step. We have recently presented the first Climate Action Plan of Aena to the Board of Directors. We are one of the first companies in the world to submit our Climate Action Plan to a consultative vote of shareholders. The General Meeting that we held in April was the first in which the company was accountable, scrutinised and showed progress in this matter, becoming a permanent independent item on the agenda of our annual meetings.

Beyond our plans to increase the percentage of self-sufficiency from renewable energies from 70% to 100% within five years or to advance to 2040 the commitment of 0 net emissions in all the airports in our network, at AENA we are convinced that sustainability is more than a manual of good intentions, it is a decisive factor in our management and performance.

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