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No basis for airport ‘carbon neutral’ claims !

The Manchester Airports Group (MAG) announced in 2006 that the operation of its four airports – Manchester, East Midlands, Bournemouth and Humberside – would be carbon neutral for 2015. But It is clear that the airports will not be “carbon neutral” by 2015 and never could have been.

Here is statement from the Manchester Airport group:

Carbon Neutral

The Manchester Airports Group (MAG) announced in 2006 that the operation of its four airports – Manchester, East Midlands, Bournemouth and Humberside – will be carbon neutral for 2015.

Our carbon neutral commitment relates to those operations under our direct control, namely our buildings, the ground support vehicles we operate and our service partner emissions. As of the 1st April 2008, we are already sourcing up to 30% of our electricity supply from renewable sources and internal initiatives are already looking at reducing the amount of energy we use across our four sites. Planning permission on four turbines has been received at East Midlands with up to 10% of the airport’s electricity usage to be generated by the turbines and wind turbine trials are underway at Manchester.

Additionally, Manchester Airport Developments Ltd (MADL), the property development arm of the business, is now asking designers at the briefing stage for projects to look at ways of generating their own power sources through ground source heat pumps, biomass, solar energy or wind turbines.

With forward thinking design it is possible to remove emissions at source and all developments across the group are being asked to consider their carbon impact. This is being witnessed on the new Concorde hangar, which is being proposed at the Aviation Viewing Park at Manchester, the new Terminal facility at Bournemouth Airport and on a low carbon pier at East Midlands that utilises natural light and sources heat from ground source heat pumps.

In recognising that aviation has an impact, we are also seeking to address that impact. Our carbon neutral target does not include the emissions from aircraft leaving our airfields as they are the responsibility of the airlines but we are supporting their inclusion into the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme, which is expected to be operational for 2012. This scheme will incentivise the airlines to use cleaner aircraft and develop more efficient technology while complementing other measures being brought forward in operational and infrastructure developments by the rest of the industry.

Alongside this we also have a twenty-year history of working with the Centre for Air Transport and the Environment at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) to understand and mitigate against the effects of aviation. We aim to continue this legacy of research into the future to share our knowledge of developing a carbon neutral airport and ensure that lessons learned at MAG are shared with the global aviation industry.

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It is clear that the airports will not be “carbon neutral” by 2015 and never could have been.

Even if all the electricity is renewable, there is a carbon footprint associated with construction and ancillary facilities.

Generation of energy from biomass is often far from carbon neutral. Indeed, it has been shown that some biofuels actually generate more carbon than fossil fuels when the full lifecycle of production and use is analysed.

AEF supports action by airports (and other sectors) to reduce their emissions over time. But claims that the airports would be carbon neutral are misleading ‘greenwash’.

It is interesting to note that at an OMEGA conference on 9th Sep 2008, attended by AEF and experts at Manchester Metropolitan University, there were no claims from Manchester Airport about it becoming carbon neutral!