Interview with Günther Ofner and Julian Jäger

Günther Ofner and Julian Jäger

Since January 2023 Vienna Airport has been CO2-neutral in its operations. Julian Jäger (left) and Günther Ofner (right), joint CEOs of Vienna Airport, tell us what this actually means and how the airport was able to reach this sustainability milestone this year.

Can you tell us what you concretely mean when you say that Vienna Airport’s operations are CO₂-neutral? What were the main challenges to reaching CO₂-neutrality? How did you achieve this – and what makes you stand out in the European airport ecosystem?

Günther Ofner, Joint CEO and CFO Vienna Airport: “In recent years, the airport has reduced its CO2 emissions per traffic unit by 80% and energy consumption by more than 40%. (Editor’s note: One traffic unit equals either one passenger or 100 kg of freight.) Since January 2023, Vienna Airport has been running CO2-neutral operations, which includes all the operational activities for which the airport is responsible. For this we operate eight photovoltaic systems (PV), one of which is in fact the largest open space photovoltaic system in Austria. By the end of 2023 we will double our PV capacity to 45 hectares. This means that Vienna Airport will in future produce around 40% of its annual electricity consumption itself. Other important influencing factors are the supply of CO2-neutral district heating, the increased use of e-mobility and sustainable building management.”

If you had to give advice to other airports on how to improve their sustainability, what would you say should be their priorities?

Julian Jäger, Joint CEO and COO of Vienna Airport: “Many European airports are already taking extensive measures here and some airports have already come a long way. With its CO2-neutral operations, Vienna Airport has joined the ranks of green airports. This was made possible by being open to new innovative approaches, looking for cooperation and thinking outside the box. The next step will be the inclusion of external partners and suppliers in the CO2 analysis of the site. Our goal is to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2033.”

To reduce any residual emissions, airports use the so-called Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs). NETs rely on natural processes (‘carbon sinks’ such as forests) or dedicated technologies (carbon capture and storage) to eliminate CO₂ from the atmosphere. Is this something Vienna Airport has also used?

Günther Ofner: “We implement and support reforestation measures on land in the airport region. In 2022, for example, we planted over 1,700 trees in an area near the airport. The rewetting of moors is also interesting for us and we are already planning some projects.”

Vienna Airport

In your opinion, what can aviation actors, from airspace users to airports, to policymakers and EUROCONTROL, do to make aviation more sustainable faster?

Julian Jäger: “I am convinced that air travel will be the first mass transport mode to operate in a CO2-neutral manner, through the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). These fuels can be used with conventional propulsion systems and that is a huge advantage. The manufacturing processes already exist, and with the admixture specifications provided by the European Union, demand will also increase. Support for investments in research and development is also important in order to advance large-scale production. From my point of view, this is at least the most important measure with which international aviation can be made CO2-neutral across the board, and I believe far-reaching improvements for climate protection can be achieved.”

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