Airport Regions and Fit for 55

By Sergi Alegre, ARC Director General. 

This article was originally published in Issue II of the Green Mobility Magazine.

Airport Regions and its representative, Airport Regions Council, should be considered the most interested and, therefore, the most committed to the Fit for 55 goals. The reasons for this situation are clear as, on the one hand, airport regions have the same situation as the rest of the regions regarding the problems related to surface transport working on fuel fossils. Still, they get the challenges of the landing and take-off cycles of planes (and their approaches to the airport) and all vehicles operating airside. On the other hand, as all mobility systems are going to migrate from fuel fossils to zero-emission energies, airport regions are the best placed (as they can add to the demand for land vehicles and the needs of planes) for their territories to host plants or systems of clean energy production with a high consumption onsite with a significant impact on the creation of economic developments and jobs. We are the best-placed organisation to ensure sustainable future aviation policy. The voice of airport regions must be heard and considered. Involving all stakeholders is the only guarantee that all parties can benefit from aviation activities. We would like our expertise and feedback translated into actions by airport operators and governments involved in exploiting airports. The ARC approach is built-up with local touches from our members from all over Europe, showing that all Europeans can efficiently contribute to the broader definition of policies.

As the problems linked to the intensive use of oil and the need to move to green alternatives have long been overseen, ARC has been working during the past years in two directions: first, by studying and analysing the specificities of mobility connected with airports, the consequences on air quality and different approaches on how to improve both; and secondly by moving ahead on the production of clean energy systems. 

For the first direction, we should underline the following actions:

As early as 2008, Airport Regions Council conducted the Study Surface Access and Climate Change. The study deals with questions of intermodality, improving the surface access in airport regions and reducing the CO2 emissions it creates. The report indicates that the way transport to and from an airport is planned can greatly impact the amount of emissions related to an airport region. The study intrigued ARC members and other stakeholders as it indicated that up to 50% of CO2 emissions associated with the airport region could be assigned to surface access. The report raised many questions: how could the challenges be met when stakeholders such as airports, airlines and public transport providers have different objectives and business models and a limited influence on each other’s competencies? What role could cities and regions play in addressing the carbon footprint in this environment? To address these questions, ARC launched 15 proposals to reduce the carbon footprint in airport regions.

D-AIR Interreg project. The goal of D-AIR was to improve surface accessibility to airport zones and the CO2 neutrality of airport operator activities. The project paid particular attention to the optimal involvement of business R&D communities in creating well-connected green airports. D-AIR looked at how to reduce the carbon from surface access and airport operations. Both factors account for about half of the carbon footprint. Through study visits, workshops, and stakeholder forums, the 14 member organisations could exchange experience and see what reduction solutions had been used and had worked at other airports and how they could be applied to their own.

In March 2017, ARC organised a full-day Conference about ultrafine particles in airport regions as supporting the reduction of ultra-fine particles (UFPs) to the minimum is crucial to preserve a comfortable and healthy lifestyle for the residents living in airport regions. We could enjoy the speeches of key European speakers such as Inmaculada Gómez -SENASA-, Jesper Abery -Copenhagen Airport-, and Vicente Franco -DG Environment, Clean Air Unit-. The proceedings were published just one month later. 

LAiRA Interreg Central Europe project addressed the specific and significant challenge of the multimodal, smart, and low-carbon mobility integration of airports and airport landside access in the mobility systems of Central Europe. The project’s objective was to reduce the energy use and the environmental impacts of transport activities in airports and hinterlands.

 In November 2017, ARC organised a full-day Conference ‘An intermodal approach towards airport access’, as improving surface access to airports is a crucial aspect of handling expected air traffic growth that will put much pressure on Europe’s airports and the transport network that links the airports with city centres and their hinterland. During the Conference, it became clear that including the grievances of residents living nearby gateways is key. Combining improved public acceptance with seamless travel and a good passenger experience will contribute to preserving our common environment. The proceedings were published in January 2018.

Since October 2021, ARC has been developing, together with other members -especially ADP Charles de Gaulle Airport- the Green Call project OLGA. The 4- year- project aims to reduce the environmental impact of the aviation sector. It develops innovative and sustainable solutions to reduce CO2 emissions, optimise energy efficiency, preserve biodiversity, and improve air quality and waste management while involving the entire aviation value chain.

ARC has been a full member of the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform since its creation and has actively participated in all the meetings and events developed till today.

On the second direction:

ARC organised in November 2019 the Conference “Sustainable Fuels for Aviation in Europe” as the final step of the FlightPath EU-funded project, focusing on bringing Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) to the market by involving the European aviation sector and promoting regional and national measures. With the presence of more than 120 participants, and experts like César Velarde (appointed expert at the ICAO Committee on Aviation and Environmental Protection – CAEP), Robert Mauri, a French member of the ICAO (CAEP) and Alfredo Iglesias -Chief Environmental Unit at Spanish Aviation Safety Agency (AESA)- explained in-depth the state of the art and the challenges. 

At ARC, we have created a working group of six members (Ingenio, Eilat, Kosice, Catalonia, Vantaa, and Vlaams Brabant) focusing on hydrogen production. At the beginning of October, Kosice presented their strategy- Kosice Hydrogen Aviation Valley- and the development of energy communities (one already implemented in Ingenio, Gran Canary Islands) 

ARC enthusiastically joined the Alliance Zero-Emission Aviation as we consider that the main goal to achieve is key for a quick but robust transition to clean aviation. AZEA’s main purpose is to prepare the aviation ecosystem for the earliest possible entry into commercial service of hydrogen and electric aircrafts facilitating cooperation between actors that need to be involved. AZEA is configured as an open platform gathering private and public actors.

Airport Regions Council has been a full member of the Renewable and low-carbon Fuels Value Chain Industrial Alliance since its creation on April 6, 2022, and actively participates in this Alliance. RLCF is an initiative that focuses on boosting the production and supply of renewable and low-carbon fuels in the aviation and waterborne sectors. It is a key flanking measure to the FuelEU Maritime and RefuelEU Aviation initiatives. The Alliance is based on the voluntary collaboration of stakeholders from across the transport fuels and other relevant value chains, from sourcing to end-users, as well as technology and finance providers, for each step in the value chain. They represent both the fuels supply and demand sides from the aviation and waterborne sectors and civil society organisations, governments, and their agencies.

ARC is proud to be a member of the advisory board of the ALIGHT EU-funded project devoted to using SAF in aviation, ground-handling vehicles, and public transport. With a budget of more than 23 million euros, ALIGHT is the most important EU project on this topic at the present moment. 

 Next March 21, Ingenio Gran Canary Islands, will host the ARC Spring Conference on the topic “Production of clean energy for airport regions and the creation and expansion of energy communities”.

I believe the lists of the studies, projects and actions developed by ARC and its members during the last years demonstrate the importance that Fit 55 represents for ARC and its members and our joint commitment. 

Last but not least, ARC and its members share a vision that comprises transport systems (including aviation) using clean energy and energy produced at regional/local levels to fit the demand, which implies geostrategic independence and the creation of economic developments and new job opportunities for all. This vision is based on our will but also knowledge, coming from academia and the programs and actions developed and already planned, that it is possible to achieve the goals fixed in the Fit for 55 strategy.

By Sergi Alegre, ARC Director General. 

This article was originally published in Issue II of the Green Mobility Magazine.