Future growth of the aviation sector (including necessary new infrastructure) and environmental sustainability are inextricably linked and mutually dependent.
Airports act as engines of social and economic growth and the direct and indirect benefits linked to their operation are considerable and in many cases airport growth is seen as a nationally or regionally vital strategic asset.
The number of flights in Europe has increased between 1990 and 2014 by about 80% and is steadily growing. However, there is a variety of adverse environmental and health impacts associated with the operation of airports that may be considered material especially for residents of communities in the vicinity of airports and the surrounding ecosystems.
The management of an airport’s interface and the relations with local people is of vital importance to each and every aviation stakeholder – and not just the airport operator.
Gaining wide community support for the benefits that growth would bring is essential in determining an airport’s future. It is in fact widely recognized that the perception of an airport’s surrounding communities can significantly affect an airport’s throughput, capacity-use, growth and operational efficiency and hence the positive sustainability impacts that a successful airport brings.
Some airport operators have actively engaged with surrounding communities over many years – and yet the attitude of the local community can still appear to be generally negative. For example, according to EEA’s NOISE Observation & Information Service for Europe, the overall exposure to airport noise in Europe is less than for other transport sources. However, the annoyance experienced by people exposed to noise from this source is greater than for any other.
It is in fact rather easy for an airport to develop a reactive and rather negative relationship with the surrounding communities, despite their best efforts:
- Denying there is an issue – or relying solely on ‘artificial’ noise metrics to prove low-impact
- Operating on a ‘them-and-us’ basis or relying on politically appointed intermediaries
- Building unrealistic public expectations and then losing trust because the solution slightly misses the over-ambitious promised mark
- Becoming the public apologist and shield between the public and the aviation community instead of sharing the public platform and presenting externally as a united entity
- Reactively dealing with complaints, making excuses, trying to sell a marginal offset of adverse impacts as a positive step.
- Not stepping outside the safety of the airport perimeter fence
The above approach, whilst understandable, tends towards a negative character – minimise, reduce, excuse, avoid, constrain, penalise, etc.
Adopting a more holistic and positive approach can strengthen an airport’s position as a good corporate citizen and neighbor and can prove to be mutually beneficial for both the airport and the local community.
Many successful airports have developed a more proactive approach to dealing effectively with community relations issues, which can include:
- Jointly establishing collaborative operational/commercial stakeholder processes to develop mitigation and to jointly engage with the wider public.
- Establishing a community partnership approach bringing local people inside the perimeter fence to see what is going on – and what limitations apply.
- In partnership with aviation and external stakeholders, establish outreach centres in local communities to enter a dialogue outside of the perimeter fence.
- Working with amenity groups and public authorities developing a joint approach to optimise the future development of the airport.
- Fund independent audits (to be supervised externally) to validate sustainability performance and public reporting
- Conducting social surveys to ensure that the true local attitude is understood by decision makers
- Funding the independent quantification of the positive contributions of the airport to sustainability and ensuring that local people are aware of these.
- Targeting the positive impacts on local people to the extent possible:
- Establish partnerships with academia, business and the airport supply chain to optimise local economic and employment benefits and to enhance the development of local skills
- Bringing the airport supply chain to local areas in need of economic development
- Community sponsorship and targeted employment
- Developing and maintaining public amenities on airport land
- Funding independently produced educational packs for local schools and colleges to support debate and awareness about aviation.
- Targeted offers and discounts for local people.
Of course, this is just a small list of the kind of more positive approaches that can help establish a fruitful relationship with external stakeholders. Naturally, adverse impact mitigation should also still proceed in parallel to this approach and it is important to honestly and publicly acknowledge its limitations. People can handle bad news, especially if they know that everything possible is being done.
Progress won’t happen over-night – especially if there is long standing community skepticism. This more balanced “sustainability” oriented approach is however far more effective than simply trying to manage negative impacts.
The enablers for successful engagement with the local communities include:
- Understanding the complex airport sustainability-operational-cost chains
- Good research into local community attitudes and perceptions
- Accurate information on measured, modelled and perceived impacts – both positive and negative
- Awareness of relevant good practice at other airports.
- The engagement of the airport operational and commercial community through cost-effective collaborative processes
- Ensuring that sustainability is part of the culture of every service partner on an airport’s site – each airport employee can help to minimise risk and can be an airport ambassador
- The trust and engagement of externally supportive entities such as regulators, planning authorities, business leadership entities, tourism businesses and supply chain businesses, etc.
- And perhaps most importantly, effective and open community communications channels and processes.
The aim is to establish a community perception of the airport as a mutually beneficial asset. One that is seen to be strategically valuable in delivering positive sustainability benefits locally; and, that can be trusted to do all it can to minimise negative airport impacts to the extent possible.
ENVISA has the skills and experience to make this a reality for your airport. We conduct independent, transparent and neutral assessments to support airports and communities in establishing relationships based on cooperation and open, fact-based communication and achieving their mutually beneficial goals.
 European Aviation Environmental Report, EASA, 2016 (https://www.easa.europa.eu/eaer/)
Ayce Celikel, President of Envisa, in the latest issue of “International Airport Review”, explains the environmental challenge for small to medium-sized airports to get the Carbon Accreditation.
Envisa is fully-dedicated to reducing the environmental footprint of airports. Environmental issues are a growing concern for airports, especially when designing new airports or terminals – integrating sustainability issues into capital projects is the way to go.
This can guarantee the long-term capacity of airports for future growth and, moreover, reducing emissions also means improving operations, reducing delays, increasing capacity, securing long-term cost savings and optimizing efficiency. Besides, airports need to comply with an increasing number of environmental regulations.
In addition, with an increasing pressure on the aviation industry with respect to climate change, airports need to accurately estimate their current and future emissions. This is already taken into account with voluntary initiatives such as ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA). For small and medium-sized airports, the first hurdle in passing from Level 1 to Level 2 or 3 is to calculate third party emissions. This includes emissions resulting from aircraft operations, as well as staff and passengers commuting to airports: the two biggest contributors.
The second challenge is to implement an efficient Carbon Management plan, including an action plan for third parties’ emissions reduction.
The largest challenges in this are collecting data from third parties to calculate emissions and engaging the stakeholders.
Despite these challenges, small and medium-sized airports are already getting involved in the ACA process and – with Envisa’s recent environmental dashboard ‘Aerogenie’ – more small airports are expected to join ACA.
Envisa, as part of its long term relationship with Eurocontrol, is honored to support them in their contributions to the next ICAO Committee on Environmental Protection (CAEP) Modeling and Databases Group (MDG) meeting, that will be held in April 2016.
The MDG group carries out modeling efforts in support to the activities of the other CAEP groups and maintains various databases such as movements, fleet, and population databases.
Envisa will be presenting the newest version of Open-ALAQS with dispersion modeling capabilities on behalf of Eurocontrol.
ENVISA is happy to share with you the summary of “Refort”. This was a 10 months long project sponsored by BPI France to define an innovative airport carbon footprint benchmark methodology. Benchmark values were defined for different airport sizes considering different factors an airport cannot control but which do have an influence on emissions.
Our approach complements the efforts that some airports have committed to, such as the ACA process (Airport Carbon Accreditation), by providing realistic benchmark values. Benchmark values allow an airport to better understand and evaluate its performance. The attached White Paper presents the main findings of the project.
If you want to learn more about this study please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.