Explained: How Indian Airports Are Working To Achieve Net Zero Carbon Emissions


Airports are in the process of switching to green sources for their energy consumption needs which will reduce their carbon footprint and further propel the journey towards ‘net zero’ emissions.

Twenty-five airports in the country are using 100 per cent green energy, while another 121 airports will be made carbon neutral by 2025, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia announced on Thursday.

Scindia made the comments in his virtual address at the two-day EU-India aviation summit.

“The emission contribution of the aviation industry has been under immense scrutiny. We have taken several measures to minimise the carbon footprint and mitigate emissions from the aviation industry,” said Scindia.

“We are encouraging our airports to use green energy by 2024 and achieve net zero by 2030. Twenty-five of our airports are already using 100 per cent green energy. Our target is to make another 121 airports carbon neutral by 2025,” he added.

Swarajya explains the importance of ‘carbon-neutral’ airports.

How Airports Generate Greenhouse Gases?

While there has been a lot of noise around the aviation industry and its emissions in recent years, there has been less talk about airports and their role in the climate crisis. 

Ground-based airport greenhouse has (GHG) emissions are caused by gasoline and diesel fuel for airport vehicles and ground support equipment (GSE), fossil fuel for electricity and heating, jet fuel for auxiliary power units (APUs) that power aircraft at airport gates, and other sources.

Most GHG inventories divide airport emissions into three categories. The amount of control an airport has over emissions reduction determines these classifications or scopes.

Scope 1- Emissions from airport-owned or controlled sources which include fossil-fuel-burning power plants, conventional vehicles that use petrol, or conventional GSE that run on diesel fuel.

Scope 2-Indirect emissions from the consumption of purchased energy (electricity, heat etc.)

Scope 3-Indirect emissions that the airport does not control but can influence. Scope three emissions include tenant emissions, on-airport aircraft emissions (typically, after an aircraft is parked on the apron), emissions from passenger vehicles arriving or departing the airport, and emissions from waste disposal and processing.

As per analysis, Scope 1 contributes 5 per cent and Scope 2 contributes to 95 per cent to the total direct emission from airports.

What Is Carbon Neutral Airport?

Several airports are striving to become ‘carbon neutral’. Carbon neutral airports have zero net carbon emissions.

In simple words, carbon neutral airports have zero carbon footprints and operate completely on green energy such as hydro and solar power for all their energy needs. These airports also offset any residual carbon dioxide emissions under their direct control.

Some of the ways through which airports can become carbon neutral involves energy efficient HVAC and lighting system, energy efficient baggage handling systems, building design as per green building standards, use of daylighting concepts, development of onsite solar power plant, use of renewable energy through offsite mechanism such as open access, long term power purchase agreement (PPA) among others.

Currently, India has 148 operational airports of which Kochi and Delhi airports are carbon-neutral.

The ministry has advised all operational brownfield airports and upcoming greenfield airports  to work towards achieving carbon neutrality and net zero emissions by 2030.

How Airports Are Certified Carbon-Neutral?

Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) by the Airports Council International (ACI) is the only institutionally-endorsed, global carbon management certification programme for airports.

It independently assesses and recognises the efforts of airports to manage and reduce their carbon emissions through six levels of certification, which are mapping, reduction, optimisation, neutrality, transformation, and transition.

Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) at Delhi and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) at Mumbai have achieved the highest-Level 4+ Carbon Accreditation of ACI. As on date, there are only four airports in Asia-Pacific, which have achieved this feat.

The other airports to get the accreditation are Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru and Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad both of which got Level 3+ (Neutrality); Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata, Biju Patnaik International Airport, Bhubaneswar, Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport, Varanasi, and the Trivandrum International Airport, all Level 2 accreditation (reduction).

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is in process of ACI-ACA Level 2 certification for 23 more airports in the country.

In total, there are 66 airports in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East among 440 accredited global airports in the ACI’s ACA Programme. Globally, 32 airports are in the top tier- Level 4+ (transition).

So, What Is A Green Airport?

Airports are in the process of switching to green sources for their energy consumption needs which will reduce their carbon footprint and further propel the journey towards ‘net zero’ emissions.

Currently, Mumbai, Cochin and 25 other AAI airports are using 100 per cent green energy.

The Cochin International Airport became the first ‘green airport’ in the world, for which it was awarded the Champions of Earth Award 2018, United Nations’ highest environmental honour. The airport fully operates on solar power, which meets all its electricity requirements.

The 25 AAI airports which are utilising 100 per cent green energy include Puducherry, Kanpur (civil), Hubballi, Belagavi, Mysore, Tezu, Kangra, Shimla, Kullu, Jammu, Srinagar, Leh, Imphal, Pakyong, Pantnagar, Dehradun, Dimapur, Jalgaon, Kolhapur, Pune, Aurangabad, Gondia, Akola, Sholapur and Juhu.

The AAI has given targets to achieve 100 per cent green energy at its remaining operational airports by 2024. According to a roadmap prepared by the AAI, 13 airports are to go green by March 2023, 12 airports by June 2023 and the remaining 46 airports by December 2024.