At Swedavia, we decided early on to be really good at environmental issues in our operational area, that is, running airports.
Today we are an international role model in developing climate-smart airports, while at the same time we look to collaborate on environmental matters beyond our operations, for instance, with the aviation sector.
Environmental and energy policy
We continually strive to improve our management system in order to reduce our environmental impact and use resources in a sustainable way.
This is to be done primarily by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, minimising other air emissions and water discharges, reducing the use of chemicals and the generation of waste, and working continually for more efficient energy use.
For us, it is a matter of course to comply with environmental and energy laws in force as well as other applicable national and international regulations and requirements. It is also a matter of course that we ensure access to the information and resources needed to achieve our environmental and energy objectives. We also work to limit aviation noise and emissions from airport operations.
To achieve this, we need to work by applying the following basic rules:
- Concern for the environment shall be an integral part of all operations and be taken into consideration in every decision.
- Climate change is the most important environmental issue for the aviation and the real estate industries and shall be given priority in our decisions and activities
- We shall continually make our own operations more energy-efficient and manage them to achieve sustainable use of resources and affect other companies and organisations that we cooperate with.
- Every Swedavia employee shall be involved in our environmental and energy work.
- We shall assess and manage environmental risks and energy performance in a systematic way.
- Swedavia shall take an active part in local, regional, national and international work aimed at reducing the negative environmental impact of the aviation industry and work for the sustainable development of its airports.
In order to operate an airport, it is necessary to have a permit for the operation itself and the facility too. The body issuing the permit is the Environmental Court.
Aviation and its environmental impact
Aviation accounts for 2% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that aviation today accounts for about 2 per cent of global fossil carbon dioxide emissions. Together with emissions of nitrogen oxides, steam and effects of condensation trails, it is estimated that aviation is responsible for about 3.5 per cent of humankind’s total impact on climate change.
Aviation accounts for 4-5 per cent of Sweden’s total fossil carbon dioxide emissions. The transport sector in turn is responsible for about a third of Sweden’s total fossil carbon dioxide emissions. This is a larger percentage than for the world as a whole and is because Sweden has an otherwise cleaner supply of energy, thanks in part to hydroelectricity.
Aircraft, like other vehicles powered by fossil fuel, release carbon dioxide in direct relation to their fuel consumption. Moreover, at high altitude, aircraft also have an environmental impact through their emission of nitrogen oxides, steam and condensation trails. There is still great scientific uncertainty about the environmental impact of these emissions.
A jet engine releases the same substances as for all combustion of fossil fuel: carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, soot, other particulate matter, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide.
There may sometimes be a strong smell of jet fuel at airports. What makes jet fuel smell is sulfur impurities, known as mercaptans, which have a penetrating, intense and characteristic odour in very small concentrations.
Sulfur impurities belong to a group of substances that cause odour problems in conjunction with the production of pulp (the sulfate process). Mercaptans are non-toxic in the low concentrations found at Swedavia’s airports.
Aircraft whirlwinds are not fuel dumping
All aircraft leave whirlwinds in their wake. When it is humid out, the whirlwinds are visible because condensation is formed from the steam in the air. It may sometimes look as if the aircraft is dumping fuel while landing. The whirlwind in the wake of an aircraft is called a vortex.
Fuel dumping occurs very rarely and only in emergency situations when a plane needs to make an emergency landing. Only the largest aircraft are able to dump fuel. If dumping is necessary, it must be done over water and at such an altitude that the fuel vaporises before it reaches the ground.
Improving environmental performance of aircraft
European aviation research and the aviation sector expect that by 2020 it will be possible to develop aircraft with 50 per cent less fuel consumption and thus carbon dioxide emissions, 80 per cent lower emissions of nitrogen oxides and 50 per cent less noise, compared to an aircraft produced today. Compared with aircraft from the 1960s, today’s aircraft are 70 per cent more fuel-efficient per person/kilometre. The most modern aircraft use about 3.0 litres of fuel for 100 kilometres per passenger.
Rapid progress is being made in developing alternative fuels for commercial aviation. The fuels with the greatest potential are second generation biofuels, which consist of ingredients such as algae, jatropha and camelina. These fuels can be mixed with fossil fuels (up to a maximum of 50% for commercial flights) and are expected to constitute a significant percentage of the blend as early as 2020.
Swedavia is taking part in a Nordic project together with Nordic airlines, airports, government authorities and aircraft manufacturers to find the most effective supply of renewable fuel for the aviation sector. This partnership has a very clearly formulated objective. Three pilot facilities are working to produce renewable jet fuel before 2016 in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. The conditions for implementing a new fuel are favourable. Renewable fuel can be used, and is already being used to some extent, in existing jet engines, and the infrastructure at airports is also flexible. There is also a cross-industry Nordic collaboration to bring together organisations involved throughout supply chain. As a result, it involves, agriculture and forestry, technology companies, producers and decision-makers.
The concept of green flights consists of three aspects – green departure, direct route and green approach. Separately and together, they contribute to greener flights – which benefit both airlines and passengers. Green flights are carried out in collaboration between Swedavia, air traffic management (LFV) and the airlines.
Green flights – read more
The issue of climate change is of strategic importance to the entire aviation sector. The aviation sector is therefore the first global sector to agree long-term global environmental objectives.
The aviation sector’s objectives entail that:
- fossil carbon dioxide emissions from aviation shall be reduced by 1.5 per cent per passenger/kilometre by 2020. After that, emissions will not be allowed to increase even if traffic increases.
- by 2050 actual fossil carbon dioxide emissions shall be half the 2005 level.
Air traffic growth globally and in Sweden
Internationally, air travel is expected to increase by about 4 per cent annually through the mid-2020s. The largest increases are predicted in Asia and the Pacific, between Asia and Europe, and in China and India. Europe and North America are relatively mature markets with lower growth rates. The growth rate for Sweden is expected to be about 2 per cent annually. The number of international passengers will rise more, while domestic air travel is instead expected to fall somewhat in the coming years.
A climate-neutral company runs its operations without contributing to global climate change. The company works systematically to calculate its carbon footprint and gradually implement measures in its own operations. Emissions that still remain are offset through international climate projects, where equivalent amounts of carbon dioxide are reduced.
An important part of Swedavia’s work involves mapping greenhouse gas emissions and implementing measures to reduce them. Investments in climate-smart solutions have also yielded results. Since 2005, Swedavia’s emissions of fossil carbon dioxide have fallen by 74 per cent. A number of concrete measures over the years have helped to reduce emissions.
- all electricity purchased and used in operations is “green”,
- environmentally classified cars are chosen in the purchase and leasing of passenger cars,
- biofuel has replaced oil in the heating of airport buildings.
To achieve climate neutrality, Swedavia buys certificates from projects in developing countries. The projects are aimed at reducing emissions in developing countries. As a result, Swedavia offsets the emissions it has not yet reduced through its own measures.
These projects are known as Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects and are accredited by the United Nations. They are also certified under the environmental movement’s Gold Standard (see explanations below).
Through a service, you can offset your flight’s greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to these projects.
How Swedavia calculates its emissions
All calculations of Swedavia’s emissions of fossil carbon dioxide are made in accordance with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which divides up the activities that produce emissions into three areas. What area an activity belongs to depends on what control Swedavia has over the activity.
Emissions are offset in three different areas
- Area 1. Direct emissions from resources owned or controlled by Swedavia.
- production of electricity and heating
- transport of materials, products, waste and of employees in Swedavia’s own vehicles.
- Area 2. Indirect emissions connected to the production of electricity or district heating purchased.
- Area 3. Other indirect emissions connected to Swedavia’s own business travel.
CDM stands for Clean Development Mechanism and is a system developed by the UN under the Kyoto Protocol. The system was designed so that industrialised can take their responsibility for the climate in a verifiable way and help developing countries economically to achieve sustainable development.
The CDM Gold Standard is a more advanced standard, developed by some 80 international environmental organisations, including WWF International and Greenpeace International. The label also entails additional requirements for social responsibility, benefits for local communities and sustainability.
The GHG Protocol is an international standard for greenhouse gas emissions. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol was developed by World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
Environmental management systems
A number of airports were already certified before Group-wide certification was achieved. As early as 1999, Umeå Airport was the first airport in the Nordic countries to be certified under ISO 14001. After this, Göteborg Landvetter Airport, Malmö Airport and Stockholm Arlanda Airport were certified. Today, all the earlier certifications have been grouped together in a single certification for the whole of Swedavia, including Swedavia Real Estate.
Continuous improvements in operations
ISO 14001 is an international standard for environmental management systems that sets requirements for how operations govern and manage their environmental work based on their environmental policy, relevant environmental requirements and their environmental aspects. The requirements call for a continuous improvement in operations and working at all times to reduce the company’s environmental impact.
This work consists of setting targets, implementing measures and monitoring the work, aspects which continuously move the environmental work forward. The environmental management system is an important tool for management and includes controls to ensure that environmentally-related investments provide benefits.
High quality with a focus on the environment
Certification shows that Swedavia’s environmental efforts are working well. It indicates that there are quality procedures in place to formulate environmental targets, establish action plans and monitor the company’s environmental work.
At Swedavia, there is a focus on the environment. Investments and a number of other measures have contributed to a 74 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from our operations since 2005. The target is now to achieve zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 – because we can always improve.
It is generally known that the hayfields and pastureland in agricultural areas are valuable from an environmental resources perspective. However, only in recent years have other man-made environments, such as airports, been shown to have an abundance of plant and animal species.
Some new environments in the landscape, such as airports, railway station areas and power line access roads, are reminiscent of old agricultural landscapes. At an airport, 50 to 100 metres of grassland usually border each side of the take-off and landing runways. The grass is cut several times during the summer so that the height does not exceed 10–20 centimetres. Surfaces must also be free of obstacles for aircraft approaching the airport. The felling of trees creates scrubland where many butterfly species, for instance, thrive.
In 2010, an inventory of biological diversity at the airports and adjacent lands was begun. This included an inventory around Stockholm Arlanda Airport and Malmö Airport, where a number of areas of national, regional and local interest were identified.
The work inventorying environmental resources then continued with the land at Göteborg Landvetter Airport and the grass areas around the runway systems of Stockholm Arlanda, Bromma Stockholm Airport, Visby Airport, Åre Östersund Airport and Kiruna Airport. The natural inventories carried out will be worked into each airport’s development plan to ensure that consideration is given to areas with great biological diversity. For instance, at Visby Airport a total of 311 different species of plants and animals were found, with 20 of these on the European Red List of Threatened Species.