Heathrow Airport launches peatland restoration project to offset emissions

Heathrow Airport has invested almost £100,000 into a peatland restoration project near Salford, in a move that will push the airport towards its carbon-neutrality aim by offsetting the carbon emissions of almost 64,000 passenger flights to New York.

Heathrow Airport has worked with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Defra on its first restoration project at Little Woolden Moss, near Manchester. The peat bog land area had been subject to peat extraction for more than 15 years, but up to 70 hectares will be restored through a £94,000 investment.

According to Defra indicators, the restoration project could generate carbon savings of more than 22,000 tonnes over the next 30 years – equivalent to almost 64,000 passenger journeys from Heathrow to New York.

Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “We are very excited to announce our partnership with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, and explore how UK peatlands can be used as a carbon offsetting tool. Climate change is the greatest challenge our generation is facing and while this is just the first of many projects, we hope it will be a model for the aviation industry to follow.”

The Airport plans to invest in more peatland restoration projects over the next two years, and is already exploring other locations.

Heathrow 2.0

Under Heathrow’s 2.0 sustainability strategy the airport has listed key ambitions to transition to 100% renewable energy, develop a Centre of Excellence for sustainable aviation and ensure carbon-neutral growth.

A significant growth in flights and infrastructure caused by Heathrow’s expansion will be carbon-neutral under this new strategy, with the airport previously detailing plans to offset an inevitable increase in emissions through the restoration of peatlands in the UK.

The carbon-neutral goal will be supported by the global CORSIA aviation deal agreed in October 2016, which saw 191 nations agree that new emissions from the aviation sector must be offset from 2020.

The pilot restoration project will explore other benefits including biodiversity, water quality, and flood protection. Up to 94% of the UK’s natural peatland has been destroyed or damaged and represents one of the country’s biggest carbon stores. The restoration of Little Woolden Moss will take place over three years.

Heathrow Airport has also announced that its Terminal 2 is now 100% powered by renewable energy, including onsite solar panels, a biomass boiler and using locally sourced forestry waste and renewable gas supplies. Heathrow has been running on 100% renewable electricity since April 2017.

The airport – which is the first in the world to simultaneously hold four certifications from the Carbon Trust Standard – also announced a £2m plan to ‘go electric’ with the installation of more than 135 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations around the area, as well as engineering new zero-carbon, fully autonomous, battery-operated carrier pods to act as shuttles around the streets of Greenwich.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie