Gatwick pioneers CO2-saving green taxi scheme

Gatwick Airport has announced a ground-breaking deal with its on-airport taxi company to reduce emissions by 75% per journey by 2020 using alternatively-fuelled vehicles, as part of the Airport's overarching strategy to cut its carbon footprint in half by 2020.

The partnership with Airport Cars Gatwick – which currently operates 250 vehicles, each averaging 1,300 journeys a year, equating to 50,000 miles per vehicle – will see electric and hybrid vehicles switch to electric operations within a 10-mile radius of the airport.

Taxis which transport more than one million passengers to and from the airport will undertake a trial in the upcoming months before rolling out a combination of electric vehicles more widely.

Gatwick’s chief commercial officer Guy Stephenson said: “This is a ground-breaking agreement which further demonstrates Gatwick’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and our pro-active approach in managing the air quality around the airport.

“By working closely with our commercial partners like Airport Cars Gatwick this is another important step in our journey to become the UK’s most sustainable airport.”

‘Grow sustainably’

Gatwick’s latest ‘Decade of Change’ sustainability report shows the airport making strong progress on its 2020 targets which include ambitious reductions in energy, carbon, waste and water.

The report, compiled in the midst of Gatwick’s runway development plans, highlights progress achieved against a 2010 baseline including; carbon emissions cut by 32.6%, energy used cut by 16.6% and no operational waste sent to landfill, with 49% recycled. Moreover, Gatwick recently revealed it will become the first airport in the world to generate energy from Category 1 waste, when it launches an onsite processing plant in November.

“As Gatwick continues to grow – and as we push for the go-ahead to build a second runway – we are doing all we can to grow sustainably and to limit our impact on the environment,” Stephenson added. “Unlike Heathrow, we have never breached legal air quality limits and this is a track record we are determined to maintain.”   

Expansion battle

Arriving on the same day as the global aviation climate deal at the 39th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the announcement comes shortly before a rumoured decision on airport expansion at either Gatwick or Heathrow Airport. Air quality surrounding airports is a defining issue in the contentious debate, with a recent Greenpeace investigation revealing that Heathrow expansion could aggravate London’s air pollution.

New research indicates Heathrow Airport could build a new runway without breaking European Union (EU) pollution laws. The study measured poisonous NO2 levels using 40 sensors in and around the airport. However, the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) claimed the research was “highly speculative” and there was no guarantee pollution levels would fall.

Reacting to the research, ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton said: “Last year the UK Supreme Court ordered the Government to draw up new plans that would bring air pollution in London within legal limits as soon as possible. Even without expansion, the area around Heathrow will continue to be in breach of legal pollution limits until at least 2025. Air pollution around the airport needs to be cut drastically before we can think about expansion.”

Gatwick has previously claimed it is the “only” airport that can deliver the economic benefits of expansion without “dramatic and unacceptable” impacts on air quality. Heathrow, meanwhile, has argued that “real, independent evidence” from both the Transport Committee and the Airports Commission – which claims the installation of technology will mitigate any environmental impacts – continue to highlight how an expansion at the airport would create an “economic powerhouse”.

The dispute has also caused a furore among political circles – Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith today reiterated that he will quit as an MP if the Government gives the green light to a third runway at Heathrow. During his failed London Mayoral election campaign earlier this year, Goldsmith remained resolute in his objective to ensure Heathrow expansion stays ‘absolutely off the table’, warning that a new runway would create toxic levels of pollution and unacceptable levels of noise.

George Ogleby

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