Heathrow confirms carbon plan is consistent with 1.5-degree pathway

By Kristiane Sherry |

Heathrow has become the first airport to achieve SBTi validation for its carbon reduction goals. IMAGE: Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport’s 2022 Sustainability Report shows it has secured accredited backing for its carbon reduction goals, which are “in line” with a 1.5-degree pathway, but it is still falling short on almost half of its commitments towards net-zero.

The London airport launched its refreshed Sustainability Strategy in February 2022, and the publication of the report one year on is the first time the airport has released an update of its progress against the new targets.

Heathrow has committed to reducing most of its scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions (upstream transportation and distribution, waste generated in operations, business travel, employee commuting, and downstream leased assets) by 46.2% by 2030 from a 2019 base.

It has also stated that 67% of its suppliers and its airline customers will set science-based carbon reduction targets by 2027.

The airport has secured Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi) validation for its 2030 carbon goals, which confirms it is in line with the broader global strategy to limit heating to 1.5-degrees. It is the first airport to achieve the accreditation with SBTi’s updated standards.

However, it has admitted that only half of its commitments towards net zero aviation and making the airport a great place to work are considered to be ‘on track’ or ‘progressing’.

Targets currently being missed or that are unable to be measured include cutting in-air carbon emissions through the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), reducing supply chain carbon and NOx airside emissions, and cutting single-occupancy staff car journeys and unaccounted-for water use.

Cutting on-stand emissions

Heathrow has however made progress against a number on on-the-ground targets. Emissions from airport vehicles were 52% lower than 2019 levels.

Trials of electric cooling for aircraft have cut engine idling, reducing emissions while they are on-stand.

In addition, Heathrow says it is delivering against its target of over 50% of local suppliers being SMEs.

While it is missing its stated target on SAF use, airlines accounting for 76% of Heathrow’s flights have committed to using it least 10% of their operations by 2030.

This year, the airport’s SAF incentive is forecast to save over 81,000 tonnes of CO2.

Passengers using public transport to get to and from Heathrow improved to 43%, which is set to increase further with the arrival of the Elizabeth Line across London.

Heathrow sustainability goals for 2023

Nature-positive and zero-waste strategies are at the forefront for 2023, with goals including noise reduction, building a nature network around the airport, and setting measurable waste targets.

Heathrow says its SAF incentive will save 81,000 tonnes of carbon in 2023. IMAGE: Heathrow

In his report welcome, Heathrow CEO Jonathan Holland-Kaye said the airport will share its evolving strategies for the two focus areas later in the year.

Becky Coffin, Director of Sustainability and Communities, said: “I am pleased with the achievements we have made during 2022, launching the Giving Back Programme, pledging to support one million people by 2030 whilst bringing more local businesses into our multi-million-pound supply chain.

“The progress achieved gives us a strong platform to build on as we deliver on our promise to do right by our neighbours.”

Matt Gorman, Director of Carbon, added: “A year on from the launch of Heathrow 2.0. I am thrilled our 2030 carbon reduction goals have achieved SBTi validation and are consistent with a 1.5 degree carbon reduction trajectory. 

“We still have a long way to go, but our world-leading SAF incentive programme demonstrates that greener, cleaner flying is possible.”

The full Heathrow 2023 Sustainability Report is available to read online.

Earlier this month, Heathrow said it had recorded its busiest passenger day since 2019 as its operations continue to ramp up.

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