Heathrow: flying towards carbon neutrality

Heathrow Airport has set a bold new target: to become one of the first major international airports in the world to achieve zero carbon by 2030. Having...

William Girling
|Feb 21|magazine9 min read

Heathrow Airport has set a bold new target: to become one of the first major international airports in the world to achieve zero carbon by 2030. 

Having already reduced the emissions of its infrastructure by over 90%, the airport, which covers an area of almost five square miles, has so far spent over £100mn to decarbonise, with a further £1.8mn pledged to carbon capture projects in the UK.

Measures that Heathrow plans to introduce this year include making its logistics vehicles EVs or hybrids, the restoration of natural ‘carbon sinks’ (such as woodlands, which naturally trap carbon like a reservoir) and carbon offsetting through tree planting projects in South America.

Achieving a milestone

“Making our infrastructure entirely carbon neutral is a significant milestone and a testament to the determination of our airport to help spearhead a new era of sustainable aviation,” said John Holland-Kaye, CEO.

“Our sights are now set on working with the global aviation industry to deliver on net-zero by 2050, at the latest. We can and will cut the environmental cost of flying whilst keeping the benefits of travel for future generations.”

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Encouraging the industry

Taking up the mantle of protecting the environment is not a new development for Heathrow; the airport’s representatives have been vocal on the subject and encouraged industry-wide change to take place.

Attending the 2019 UN Climate Summit in New York, Holland-Kaye announced that Heathrow would collaborate in the World Economic Forum’s ‘Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition’, an initiative aiming to make carbon-neutral flight an industry standard. 

Christoph Wolff, Head of Mobility Industries at the Forum, stated his opinion that the aviation sector is dealing with a dual-problem: an increasing demand for travel versus an urgent need to reduce the industry’s environmental impact.

“We believe the real key to the sector reaching carbon neutrality is through the scaled use of sustainable aviation fuels. These exist and work, but there are not enough and they are far more expensive than traditional jet fuels.”

“The entire value chain has to work together to drive down the cost of these fuels and we can only fulfil this mission with the support of policy-makers, industry stakeholders and all of us that rely on aviation for business and prosperity,” he said.