Birmingham Airport publishes carbon update, targets solar power boost

By Kristiane Sherry |

Birmingham Airport is on-track to be carbon neutral by 2033. Image: Jimmy Guano

The UK’s Birmingham Airport (BHX) has confirmed its plans to become net-zero by 2033 are on track, and has unveiled a new array of solar panels that will provide at least 20% of its electricity requirements.

In its recently published sustainability update covering 2021-2023, CEO Nick Barton said the airport had already achieving meaningful carbon reduction.

“We have made significant progress since 2019/20, our reporting baseline, and achieved a 27% reduction in carbon emissions in 2021/22,” he said. 

“We expected emissions to rise in 2022/23 in line with the strong growth in passengers, but this was limited to a 4% increase year-on-year, despite reopening areas within the terminal that were closed during 2021/22.”

It also stressed that its strategy was to invest in projects that will directly reduce its carbon emissions, as opposed to offsetting. 

Part of this work has been the investment in solar. Between September 2023 and May 2024, the airport will install 12,804 photovoltaic panels on a 1.5km-long, six metre-high, noise-blocking embankment, known as the ‘Alpha Bund’. 

“Installing our own green energy sources on our airfield is one of many things we are doing to reduce our carbon footprint and become a net zero operation by 2033,” said Simon Richards, chief finance and sustainability officer at BHX.

“In the next decade we will see many transformational steps forward in the aviation sector, including the game-changing prospect of hydrogen-powered, zero-emission passenger flights. 

“With the impacts of climate change all too real, steps like this represent us doing our bit to help protect our planet’s future for generations to come.”  

Other areas marked as ‘Good Progress’ or ‘Some Progress’ include local air quality, waste management, water use, and noise.

Birmingham Airport Scope 3 emissions

Areas where progress fell short include Scope 3 emissions, which increased by 88% year-on-year to 148,658 tonnes of CO2-equivalent. 

The airport attributed this to increased aircraft movements following the lifting of pandemic restrictions. 

Compared to a 2018/19 baseline, Scope 3 emissions were reduced by 43%, the airport said. 

“We view collaboration with external stakeholders as key to achieving our net-zero carbon ambitions and addressing our Scope 3 emissions,” it added in a statement. 

CEO Nick Barton continued: “We recognise that the challenge still exists to define a clear route to net-zero. We have been honest about this. We know how we will do the first two-thirds of this through the use of known technologies, including solar power, smart metering and other low-carbon alternatives. 

The final third of our journey to Net Zero will be the toughest. We will be relying on technologies not yet invented to get there. This is a daunting challenge but one which we are committed to tackling. 

“We have set 2033 as our target because 2040 or 2050 would make this someone else’s problem. Climate change is the defining challenge of our age. We must play our part.”

Solar is also a critical source of power at the new Abu Dhabi Terminal A development, set to open in November 2023.

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