Airport resilience can be defined as the ability of operations and infrastructure to withstand and recover from external disturbances caused by current climate variability and future climate change, including slow onset events and effects of increased frequency and intensity of extreme events. But building resilience to climate change while coping with significant traffic growth is a double challenge. Therefore, these two issues should not be dealt with in isolation, but in parallel. In particular, it is important to note that developing climate change resilience as part of on-going operational and infrastructure improvements can be the most efficient and cost-effective way to achieve this. If measures are being taken to develop an airport to accommodate a greater number of passengers and flights then climate and capacity should be viewed as integral parts of this. Therefore, actions aiming to improving capacity and capability (i.e. understanding the problems, assessing the problems, selecting and implementing adaption measures, communication and airport stakeholders’ engagement) need a unified approach. With above, Daniel Bircher, Chairman and Managing Director, Yamuna International Airport (Noida International Airport) believes theneed to continue to work together on technology and operational and policy advancements that can support the airport sector’s sustainability strategy is the best way forward to ensure that efforts and commitments are a reality on the path to sustainable aviation. Ritika Arora Bhola discusses more about the key benefits of sustainability monitoring, reporting and outreach.
MAKING GREEN INITIATIVES WORK FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, ECONOMY AND AVIATION RESILIENCE
There is a huge need and opportunity to build green infrastructure in India, especially in aviation as the country moves towards a more sustainable future and aligned with the 2070 vision of the honourable Prime Minister. To become energy independent is a challenge for both airport and logistics operators. However, apart from the overall climate perspective, we do believe that investments in green infrastructure can also provide compelling business cases.
The move towards sustainable infrastructure is a gradual and conscious process. Providing robust, resilient, and sustainable infrastructure to ensure operations without disruption is the prime focus today. This is in the end, not so much a question of renewable or non-renewable but a question of redundancy, backup power sources, and energy management of buildings and infrastructure.
Noida International Airport (NIA) is planning to produce the maximum possible renewable energy at the airport site. Possible energy gaps will be bridged by purchasing renewable energy produced elsewhere.
NIA’S LONG-TERM PLAN THAT COMBINES ENERGY DEVELOPMENT OBJECTIVES AND POLICIES
NIA is committed to developing a world-class airport with focus on sustainable development. We have set an ambitious zero-emission goal for this Greenfield airport. The airport planning, construction, operation, and further developments will be undertaken while minimising the environmental impact of airport operations. There are plans to implement technologies and processes like zero-emission fuels and electricity, waste and waste-water management, and environmental management system to realise this goal.
We would like NIA to be a role model for sustainable infrastructure and operations in the country. Sustainable operations are not only good for the environment but also enable higher efficiency, including cost and time savings. We believe that with continued and collective efforts across the board, the aviation industry can achieve its goal of a greener, sustainable operations.
KEY DISCUSSIONS CENTERED AROUND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY REPORTING
I see the domestic aviation industry coming forward diligently to work towards an environmentally-friendly future, which is certainly triggered to a larger degree by the ongoing pandemic, further strengthened by the vision declared by PM Modi at the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 26).
India is actively advocating the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs). The nation—which is among the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets—is on the journey to producing and deploying SAFs at scale. SAFs are seen as an increasingly important component of global aviation’s decarbonisation efforts to align with targets outlined in the Paris Agreement. The sector emits around 3 per cent of the world’s total greenhouse gases, a figure that belies a climate-change impact that could be two to four times larger because of non-CO2 pollutants and other negative externalities.
As an industry, we should exchange best practices and implement all reasonable technologies and measures; we cannot overlook the fact that by far the biggest lever is renewable or sustainable fuels. All our efforts should strive to make such types of fuels available as early and as widely as possible.
In addition, there are various ways by which all aviation stakeholders can work together to ensure that the aviation industry achieves sustainability goals, and we are able to move a step ahead in making our earth a greener place. Some of the ways and means through which this goal can be realised are:
Green Sustainable Airports projects
Building eco-friendly airports with an ecologically stable infrastructure and renewable sources of energy is the key to achieving sustainability in the aviation industry.
Some airports have already started capitalising on schemes to become carbon-neutral, achieving carbon certification programmes and building green-certified terminals. In 2015, India’s Cochin International Airport became the first airport in the world to be fully powered by solar panels. This helped it reduce its carbon footprint by over 3 lakh metric tonnes – equivalent to planting 3 million trees.
Improve airport adaptation capacity
We believe that operations in aviation can be improved while also cutting on emissions by reducing the time an aircraft spends in the air. This could be achieved by optimising the use of runways and terminals, improving air traffic management, and deploying efficient navigation systems. A reduction in aircraft taxiing time on the runway by just 120 seconds could result in savings of 5,000 kg of fuel burn and 15 tonnes of carbon emissions per day.
In Mumbai, for instance, the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport on December 08, 2018, recorded 1,007 aircraft movements, a world record for the largest number of flight movements on a single runway in 24 hours. This was achieved by ensuring optimal utilisation of the runway and air space capacity, deploying advanced communication systems, and improving air traffic management.
Fuel-efficient engines and future innovations in aircraft designs
Innovative technological arrangements could improve fuel efficiency of aircraft engines. Today’s aircraft use roughly 80 per cent less fuel per passenger mile than the first jets of the 1950s. Developments such as lightweight materials, winglets, and aircraft design change could further improve fuel efficiency.
REAFFIRMING THE COMMITMENT TO WORK TOGETHER AS TECHNOLOGY LEADERS
I believe it is critical we adapt to the dynamic environment we are operating in currently. The changing face of the pandemic driven by the need to adopt technology has changed the way we work today. Hence, it is integral that we build an airport and aviation community that demonstrates operational efficiency, and which places more focus on customers and on the new realities of air travel through modern technology.