Acting as a gateway to travel, airports allow passengers worldwide to go abroad. However, airports raise many environmental issues from noise pollution, land utilisation, waste, and harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
In an order to reduce its carbon footprint and mitigate the environmental impact from its operations, Bordeaux Airport has recently invested €8m into a programme focusing on environmental projects for resilience and recovery. The project will also assist the airport’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 which it is currently working towards via the installation of biodiversity areas and water projects.
Jean Pouget, head of safety, compliance quality and environment, Bordeaux Airport discussed what the investment aims to achieve, as well as what the future holds for the aviation industry when looking at its environmental impact.
Frankie Youd (FY): How did the decision to invest €8m in environmental projects come about? When was this initially discussed?
Jean Pouget (JP): This decision results from an environmental turn in the management of the platform, specially emphasised since 2019. From 2002 to 2013, three successive strategic plans for sustainable development were issued by Bordeaux Airport, and a whole environmental management system was gradually developed from 2014.
Environmental development has accelerated over the last four years, especially in the aim for energy transition, and in 2019 the environmental commitments were included at the top-tier of the new strategic plan, a specific budget has been dedicated to them.
Although this strategic plan has been affected by the Covid-19 crisis, the airport remained steady on its commitments regarding environment topics. The €8 million remained untouched in the Recovery Plan adopted at the end of 2020. It represents 20% of the total airport investments planned by 2025.
FY: Where did the funding come from?
JP: Although a very large majority of projects are financed by the airport itself, a tiny part regarding ACA (Airport Carbon Accreditation) will be co-funded by the EASEE Program – Airport Commitment to Energy Efficiency and Environment.
FY: What are the projects that the airport will be investing in and how will they benefit the environment?
JP: The main project is the commitment to the Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) Program. The airport got the first level (ACA 1) in June 2021 and aims at being carbon-neutral with offsets before 2030 (ACA3+) through an action plan to reduce its CO2 emissions, and in the longer term those of its on-site partners.
The airport also aims at being responsible in its water use and waste management. For instance, new waste collection equipment is planned in the terminals to improve waste sorting, and studies are currently being carried out to set up a system to recover and reuse the airport’s firefighting water.
The environmental policy will also involve protecting local biodiversity while ensuring the safety of the airport. Finally, another challenge will be to prevent and reduce noise pollution for improving the quality of life of neighbourhood residents.
FY: When is development expected to start on these projects?
JP: Numerous actions have been carried out in recent years, including the purchase of 100% renewable electricity and the installation of electric recharging stations in the public and staff car parks. In order to prevent pollution, a treatment plant was built to control the flow and quality of runoff water discharges.
The modernisation of the airport added to the will to be enrolled in an environmental management system (ISO 14001 certified) will lead to new actions and initiatives for a balanced and responsible development. The ecological transition is going to accelerate in the coming years to reach ACA 2 in 2022 and ACA 3 the following years.
FY: Other than this investment and project, how is the airport assisting the environment at present?
JP: Several projects are ongoing despite of the Covid-19 crisis. The most emblematic one is Satellite 3, the new international pier to be opened soon. It will be Bordeaux Airport’s first High Environmental Quality infrastructure with certification covering four areas: energy, the environment (choice of low environmental impact construction, water and waste management), health (air and water quality) and comfort (hydrothermal, acoustic).
In the area of energy, oldest buildings undergo thermal renovations. In order to minimise the impact on air quality, the airport is gradually deploying 400Hertz ground power converters on all aircraft stands to decrease the use of fossil fuels.
Furthermore, actions to protect biodiversity have been taken in recent years such as the ban of phytosanitary products for infrastructure maintenance, financial support for reforestation in Nouvelle-Aquitaine – with already 6,000 trees planted from 2019 to 2020, and the setup of beehives in an area offering a wide variety of nectar and pollen to fit the ‘taste’ of some 150,000 bees.
Special attention is also given to the noise environment. A permanent dialogue is established with local institutions and residents during environmental advisory commissions. Moreover, noise levels and aircraft trajectories are available on our website and about 750 homes have been soundproofed to date.
FY: The airport is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2030, what key steps are being taken to achieve this?
JP: It must now formalize its Carbon Management Plan by working on the decarbonization of fixed and mobile combustion sources and the development of renewable energies. The setting of photovoltaic panels and the renewal of service vehicle fleet and trackside buses by hybrid and/or electric vehicles are also in the process of implementation.
Moreover, geothermic sources are under evaluation and likely to be in use within two years from now. On-site partners will be gradually mobilized on the actions carried out by the airport until the phase of compensation of ineluctable emissions.
FY: What do you think the future holds for the aviation industry in terms of its environmental impact?
JP: From 2009 the aviation industry committed to short, medium, and long-term quantified targets to reduce its emissions by investing in new technological innovations. The environmental transition of the sector requires financial aids and the commitment of stakeholders to develop the use of responsible sources of fuel (such as biofuels), design less energy-intensive infrastructures, and improve air traffic management.
The aviation industry is willing to shape the future of decarbonized aviation, that can be illustrated with the example of the low-consuming motor project launched recently by General Electric and Safran industries.