Aéroports Côte d’Azur becomes first carbon-neutral airport group in France
This case study is about a major airport using hydrogen technology to reduce its carbon footprint and achieve a prestigious environmental accreditation. According to French Civil Aviation Authority, until recently, there has never been such a high level of mobilisation relating to sustainable development in the air transport industry. The last few years saw projects getting under way, and tangible commitments being made. The air transport industry is at the heart of the main issues related to sustainable development: noise, climate change, and local pollution. Air pollution challenge is among the priorities for the airports and hydrogen is being viewed as one of the technologies which could help address this formidable challenge.
“Receiving the Airport Carbon Accreditation level 4+ is not just a medal or a pretence covering up a greenwashing operation. It represents the international recognition of a sincere commitment and an ambitious and unprecedented action plan. In the future, low-emission aeroplanes will take off and land on totally decarbonised airports. This is the course of history, and we want to be its laboratory.”
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur
The Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur group, which has continually been striving to improve its environmental policy for more than 20 years, has taken an essential new step towards achieving its goal of full net zero emissions, without any offset, by 2030. The award of the new Airport Carbon Accreditation level 4+ certifies the reduction of the absolute value of the Group’s emissions, while the Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport has already become the first airport in France in a position to claim net zero, without any offsetting.
What is this airport hydrogen Business Case?
From time to time we report on the successes of our Customers, or run a simulation of environmental impact and economic benefits for leading players in the Mobility sector. This allows us to celebrate the Customers’ achievements, and sharpen our tools in real-life scenarios. Often, the simulations provide a solid basis, a starting point, for an informed project discussion with our prospective Clients.
Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (IATA: NCE) is an international airport located 5.9 km from Nice. It is the third busiest airport in France and serves as a focus city for Air France and an operating base for EasyJet. It handles nearly 15 million passengers per year. The airport is the principal port of arrival for passengers to the Côte d’Azur.
Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur has made a firm commitment to achieving net zero emissions, without any offset, by 2030, which is 20 years earlier than the worldwide commitments made under the terms of the Paris Agreement. In 2018, the Group was the first in France to receive the Airport Carbon Accreditation level 3+, which certified its carbon neutrality by offsetting its residual emissions. In 2020, the Group started its reforestation operations directly on the site of the Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport, and in the municipalities adjacent to the Cannes-Mandelieu and Nice Côte d’Azur airports. This unique operation in France has created natural carbon sinks capable of absorbing up to 300 tons of CO2 equivalent per year as the trees grow.
Finally, a decisive step was taken between 2018 and 2019, when the three airports succeeded in reducing the absolute value of their direct emissions: -4.4% for Nice, -20% for Cannes-Mandelieu and -27% for Golfe de Saint-Tropez. Despite the growth of traffic, emissions have been cut and absorption has been increased directly in the surrounding region. The Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur group has now become the first airport group in France, and the second in Europe, to receive the brand new, and more demanding, Airport Carbon Accreditation level 4+.
What is the impact?
Since the Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur group took control of Golfe de Saint-Tropez in 2013, the airport has slashed its direct emissions by 62%. In 2020, the airport’s residual emissions totalled less than 17 tons, as a large-scale operation was launched to reforest 1 hectare of woodland, representing the capacity to absorb almost 30 tons of CO2 equivalent. These actions enable the airport to achieve net zero emissions carbon-neutrality without any offset, and to ultimately absorb part of the emissions from semi-cruising aircraft.
As Nice Côte d’Azur and Cannes-Mandelieu continue to make progress along this ambitious road map year after year, Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport has already reached this target.
“We have used Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport as a laboratory for new ideas and innovations, where we can test solutions and implement our carbon-neutral policy, thanks to its size and the fact that we conduct all the ground operations ourselves. The progress we have made and its benefits for the region have motivated us to go even further on all our airports in order to ultimately achieve net zero, without any offset, and to step up the efforts being made in the entire aeronautical industry to make the energy transition”,
exclaims Franck Goldnadel,
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur.
Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport has succeeded in slashing its direct emissions by almost two-thirds since 2013, which represents savings of 44 tons of CO2 equivalent, for an investment of more than €150,000. Every solution has been adopted. Simple solutions, such as replacing high-energy light bulbs with LEDs, creating light wells in the offices to limit the use of artificial lighting or insulating certain parts of the buildings. Plus other equally simple, but more costly, solutions, like consuming only renewable energy, or more innovative changes, such as electrifying the fleet of vehicles and runway machinery.
Reducing the emissions from the fleet of ground vehicles is a practical way for the airports to tackle the problem of air pollution.
In an innovation introduced by the Solar Impulse Foundation, four vehicles have been equipped with antismog devices, which immediately reduced emissions of NOx and fine particles by 67% to 94%.
“The actions we have taken over the last few years have helped to reduce emissions on a worldwide scale, by consuming exclusively carbon-free electricity, and to improve air quality in the region, by adopting solutions that drastically reduce emissions of NOx and fine particles.”
Head of Sustainable Development and Environment at Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur
The last stage of the airport’s strategy to achieve net zero, without any offset, consists of reforesting part of its land by planting 1,100 Mediterranean trees. In addition to the airport hydrogen technology, this natural carbon sink will have the potential to absorb 30 tons of CO2 equivalent in the coming years, or double the airport’s residual emissions. In addition, the 20 hectares of woodland beside the runways will be restored in an effort to revitalize the trees and increase the effects of photosynthesis.
Acting beyond direct emissions
“Today, Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport is fully equipped to absorb all of its residual emissions, but also to go further and to offset a part of the emissions from aircraft in flight, for which we are not directly responsible. To us, it makes sense to take the broadest and most efficient action as possible, because we are one link in the air transport chain. Absorbing as much as possible, but also preparing the fuels of the future, are the best ways of conserving our region and pursuing our activities that are essential to its reputation and vitality”,
concludes Franck Goldnadel.
In addition to the airport hydrogen actions it has taken on air quality, Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport has also launched operations in favour of the broader natural ecosystem. The replacement of CCTV cameras with infrared cameras has made it possible to switch off the powerful spotlights that were to protect the security of the site at night. Without this artificial light, and with the silence produced by closing the runways at night, local bird life is able to enjoy the calm it needs. Along the same lines, the measures taken to protect the plants, wildlife and the entire environment in the immediate vicinity of the airport will be stepped up under the terms of a partnership agreement with the “Aéro Biodiversité” NGO.
Who might be interested in this?
- Airport fleet managers and airport environmental impact managers.
- Airport- and Aviation-focused environmental consultancies.
- Fleet management consultancies.
Who is behind this hydrogen for airport tech?
ANTISMOG is an open-source, green hydrogen-based process, which reduces emissions from existing combustion engines. The effectiveness of the process has been tested, audited, and validated by AirParif, ADEME, and UrbanLab of Paris&Co.
ANTISMOG carries a “1000 Efficient Solutions” label by Solar Impulse Foundation.
Further reading and sources:
Original press release (in English): https://www.nice.aeroport.fr/en/news/aeroports-de-la-cote-d-azur-becomes-the-first-level-4-carbon-neutral-airport-group-in-france
Original press release (in French): https://www.nice.aeroport.fr/actualites/aeroports-de-la-cote-d-azur-1er-groupe-aeroportuaire-neutre-carbone-niveau-aca-4-de-france