By applying a wide range of measures, Vilnius airport has reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from its direct operations by as much as one-third over several years, in terms of average emissions per passenger served. As of mid-2022, the capital's air gateways are preparing to move to the third level of the international Airports Carbon Accreditation (ACA) environmental programme, while Kaunas and Palanga airports are planning to move to the next stage.
The 235 airports belonging to the ACA programme from around the world have committed to achieving zero CO2 emissions from their airside operations (direct operations) by 2050. As many as 91 airports are aiming to reach this target much earlier, by 2030. All three Lithuanian airports in particular are among the latter, and Vilnius airport, the earliest to join the programme, can already be proud of its successful emission reduction results.
Achieving results at Vilnius airport
"As part of the ACA programme, we calculate annual GHG emissions - the so-called carbon footprint - at all Lithuanian airports and are constantly looking for comprehensive measures to minimise them. Vilnius airport is already preparing for the third phase of the programme in the middle of the year, which means taking even more real action to reduce CO2. Every year we collect detailed statistics on fuel consumption, electricity and heating costs in buildings. The next step is to count not only our own emissions, but also those of our partners who operate at the airport. In other words, we will involve a wider range of stakeholders in the process and start to educate and suggest ways to jointly reduce emissions in the airport ecosystem,", says Environmental Project Manager, Lithuanian Airports dr. Kristina Greičiūtė.
Dr. K. Greičiūtė clarifies that Kaunas and Palanga airports have already been participating in the ACA programme since 2019 - they are currently in Level 1 and are aiming to move to Level 2, thereby committing to prepare detailed carbon reduction plans for their direct operations.
Vilnius airport was the first airport in the Baltic States to join the programme in 2016 and is currently working towards moving from level 2 to level 3. All three Lithuanian airports are planning to move to the higher levels of the Airports Carbon Accreditation programme in mid-2022.
Popular myth that aviation is the most polluting form of transport
The ACA programme consists of four phases. In the first phase, participants start by analysing the sources of emissions in their day-to-day operations, in the second phase they move towards developing and implementing specific solution plans to manage and reduce their carbon footprint, and in the following phases, even stakeholders within airports are involved. They are involved in the implementation of the plans to eliminate or reduce CO2 emissions from their operations. The latter processes will be implemented at Vilnius airport in the near future.
Dr. K. Greičiūtė also states: "By being part of this programme, we not only aim to improve our performance, but also to debunk the myth that aviation is one of the most polluting sectors of transport and that no real action is being taken. By implementing the third phase of the programme, together with the help of our partners, we will make a significant contribution to decarbonising our operations. For example, saving on heat and electricity consumption alone is one of the key steps that could, in practice, help everyone to reduce the overall emissions of the airport partners. It is also very important to emphasise waste separation and recycling.
And, for example, through operations such as optimising aircraft take-off and landing cycles, optimising ground transportation of passengers to the airport, reducing taxi times, engine testing, auxiliary power plant operation and even switching to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), we can make a significant contribution to reducing or eliminating CO2 emissions. We hope to be the first in the Baltic States to achieve zero CO2 emissions in our operations."
Vilnius airport as the only airport so far advanced in the ACA programme
Vilnius airport is currently the only airport in the Baltic States to have progressed so far in the Airports Carbon Accreditation programme. All documentation, calculations and plans are already being prepared and will be submitted to the ACA assessors. Based on the documentation received or the actual situation assessed during the visit, a decision will be made whether to grant Vilnius airport the accreditation to move to the third level of the programme.
Meanwhile, Riga and Tallinn airports, as well as Kaunas and Palanga airports, are preparing for the second phase of the programme accreditation - the preparation of plans to reduce CO2 in daily operations.
Implemented actions that have contributed to reducing pollution
The three Lithuanian air gates consider participation in the GHG emission reduction programme to be an environmental priority. Emissions are calculated and certificates are updated annually for all three airports, while in Vilnius the implementation of the emission reduction plan is underway: lighting systems are being replaced with LED, the transport fleet is being upgraded with hybrid cars, a solar power plant is being installed on the new VIP terminal and conference centre building, and new buildings and their parts are being designed to the highest energy sustainability standards. For several years now, all airports have been buying and using electricity generated entirely from renewable sources.
In addition, in 2021 Lithuanian Airlines also successfully completed the reconstruction of Palanga airport, making it more environmentally friendly. Engineering solutions have improved the collection and treatment of surface water and the installation of LED lights has reduced the electricity consumption of the entire airport. Reconstructed runways and taxiways are helping to save aircraft fuel, which reduces CO2 emissions to the environment.
The largest renovation project in the country's aviation history, the renovation of Vilnius airport's aerodrome, was also completed at the end of 2021. The three-year reconstruction included the renovation and installation of new taxiways and various environmentally friendly solutions, which also contribute to the ACA programme's objectives.