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6 Dec 2023

COP28: Christchurch Airport among first ten in the world to achieve new standard for decarbonisation

Christchurch Airport and nine European airports are the first in the world to achieve a new level in Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA), with Christchurch being the only airport in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Airports Council International (ACI) has just unveiled the new accreditation level, known as Level 5, at the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28).

Stefano Baronci, Director General of ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East, said: “Christchurch Airport has been a pioneer of airport sustainability in Asia-Pacific and Middle East, being the first airport operator in the world to reach level 4 ACA programme. Today Christchurch Airport confirms its leading role in decarbonisation, by being among few airports in the World and as first Airport in Asia-Pacific Level 5 in the Airport Carbon Accreditation Programme. This means having reached and maintained a net zero carbon balance for emissions under its control. This success has been based on the long-term vision of the company, a clear roadmap towards net zero and the commitment of its team and industry partners. We hope this milestone will encourage other airports to strive towards sustainability goals and pursue initiatives that lead to more environmentally responsible aviation industry. To support our airport members, ACI APAC & MID will also play its part by assisting airports to develop roadmaps to achieve their net-zero goals.”

At a dedicated side-event during COP28, ten world leading airports were presented with their Level 5 certification. 

The other nine airports are Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Eindhoven and Rotterdam-The Hague airports in the Netherlands; Beja, Madeira and Ponta Delgada airports in Portugal; Göteborg Landvetter and Malmö airports in Sweden and Toulon-Hyères airport in France.

To achieve this level of accreditation an airport must:

  • Submit a verified carbon footprint for Scope 1 and 2 emissions and all relevant categories of Scope 3 emissions as per requirements of the GHG Protocol Scope 3 Guidance
  • Reach and maintain ≥90% absolute CO2 emissions reductions in Scope 1 and 2, and commit to Net Zero in Scope 3 by 2050 or sooner
  • Apply credible carbon removals for the residual emissions
  • Develop a Carbon Management Plan (CMP) outlining the steps to achieve emissions targets,
  • Develop a Stakeholder Partnership Plan to achieve Net Zero for Scope 3 emissions by engaging with the value chain and actively drive third parties at the airport towards delivering emissions reductions themselves with regular milestones in line with their sectors net zero frameworks and commitments.

Christchurch Airport chief executive Justin Watson says the achievement is the culmination of a lot of hard mahi (work).

“Christchurch Airport’s been working hard at this for more than 15 years. A dedicated team of people have gone above and beyond to get us here. I’d also like to acknowledge the assessors who independently verify our work, the ACA Asia Pacific team, and those who have challenged us to lift the bar even higher. We thank them for their support and challenge .”

The company’s Sustainability Transition Leader Claire Waghorn says it’s a very proud moment.

“This is a moon shot moment for our team. This is a challenging sector to abate and no one is under any illusion – we have a whole lot more work to do to decouple carbon from aviation and make the zero aviation dream a reality. We recognise however the critical role that aviation plays, especially for isolated nations, and therefore are committed to being part of the solution. That’s why 90% of the work we do now focuses on how we can help other businesses, including our airline partners decarbonise.

“As a business we are working hard. We are building a 400-hectare renewable energy precinct, Kōwhai Park, to provide the green energy low emission aircraft will need in the future. We’re part of a consortium to enable hydrogen aviation to take off in New Zealand and we’re helping lead Sustainable Aviation Aotearoa.”

The Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, and the ambition embodied by the new level announced today, has earned applause from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Conor Barry, Manager Engagement and Climate Change Sub-division, UNFCCC said: “COP28 is an opportunity for nations to come together and take stock of the progress made globally to reach the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement. While governments focus on national approaches, there is much to celebrate and commend in the realm of non-governmental climate action, particularly by the global airport industry. I commend airports for their leadership in carbon management, notably by aligning their global carbon standard Airport Carbon Accreditation with the goals set forth by the Paris Agreement, and advancing in step with the rising level of ambition and deeper understanding of the climate science. Achieving the profound transformation needed for sustainable development and global temperature stabilisation requires commitments and participation from all sectors and levels of society. What airports set out to achieve is exemplary. In particular, my congratulations go out to all ten pioneers of Level 5.”

About Airport Carbon Accreditation

Airport Carbon Accreditation 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 its levels of certification: ‘Mapping’, ‘Reduction’, ‘Optimisation’, ‘Neutrality’, ‘Transformation’, ‘Transition’ and ‘Level 5’.

Through its levels of certification, Airport Carbon Accreditation acknowledges that airports are at different stages in their journey towards comprehensive carbon management. It is a programme for airports of all sizes, extending beyond hubs and regional airports with scheduled passenger traffic, to include general aviation and freight-focused airports.

Find out more on the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme website.