Gatwick plots path to net-zero before 2040

Gatwick Airport believes it can reduce its Scope 1 (operations) and Scope 2 (power-related) emissions by 80% by 2030, against a 1990 baseline, as it works to deliver net-zero in these areas before 2040.

Gatwick plots path to net-zero before 2040

Targets for reducing Scope 3 (indirect) emissions in line with climate science are still under development at the Airport

In an updated sustainability strategy through to 2030, entitled ‘Decade of Change’ and published late last week, the Airport revealed that it has set new science-based targets for Scope 1 and 2 emissions that should result in a 25% reduction this decade. Emissions from these scopes are already down 72% since 1990.

Aside from aircraft, priority focus areas for lowering emissions include ground and road transport, electricity and heat.

There are new commitments for the airport to source 50% of its network electricity and 50% of its heat consumption from renewables by 2030. Gatwick already purchases 100% renewable electricity through certified tariffs backed by Renewable Electricity Guarantees of Origin (REGO) certificates, but, as a RE100 member, has stated that it wants to go further. When electricity and heat are accounted for, 70.6% of the firm’s consumption was renewable in 2020.

On transport, there is a new requirement for all on-airport vehicles to meet zero-emission or ultra-low-emission standards by the end of the decade. 40% of airfield ground support vehicles have been switched to electric and this proportion will increase under the new mandate. There are also new measures to reduce emissions from passenger and staff journeys to and from Gatwick; the overarching commitment is that 60% of these trips will be zero-emission or ultra-low emission by 2030, with public transport being the biggest lever for change.

Gatwick’s calculations of Scope 3 (indirect) emissions cover aircraft engine testing and aircraft take-off and landing. It has not yet developed a science-based target for addressing Scope 3 emissions but has committed to doing so.

The Airport is notably a contributor to the UK Sustainable Aviation coalition which last year published a pathway to net-zero, centring on more efficient aircraft combined with sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). Following criticism of this pathway from bodies including the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the coalition is expected to post updated targets later this week.

SAFs can reduce life-cycle emissions by up to 70-80% compared to traditional jet fuel. However, most airlines currently only use them in small proportions in blends – partly due to a lack of supply and because current international regulations limit biofuel blends to 50%.

Broader approach

Beyond the new climate targets, Gatwick has also updated environmental goals relating to waste, water and nature.

There is a commitment to reaching zero waste to landfill from operations, commercial activity and construction; a pledge to halve potable water consumption on a per-passenger basis, against a 2019 baseline, and a pledge to reach zero pesticide use. All targets have a 2019 baseline year.

Gatwick claims that it met or exceeded goals in all of these areas covering the last decade (2010-2020). But it has come under fire from environmental campaigners in recent months over its proposals for expansion.

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Sarah George

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