Airport Carbon Accreditation – A Global Standard in Conformity with the Lima-Paris Action Agenda

Context of Transport Climate Action

On an annual basis, airports globally emit approximately 30.000.000 tonnes of CO2, representing a small percentage (i.e., 5%) of total aviation emissions. However, the airport community decided to play its part alongside other sectors in contributing to attain the 1.5°/2°C temperature increase objective. Indeed, Airport Carbon Accreditation was designed as a key tool for airports to reduce their CO2 emissions and achieve best practice in carbon management, with the ultimate objective of becoming carbon-neutral.

Furthermore, Airport Carbon Accreditation is consistent with the industry-wide commitment on climate change, ICAO’s objectives as well as the initiatives of the United Nations Conference of the Parties.


The objective of Airport Carbon Accreditation is to reduce carbon emissions and achieve best practice in carbon management from operations fully within the control of the airports, with the ultimate target of becoming carbon neutral.

Airport Carbon Accreditation was launched in 2009 by Airports Council International Europe (ACI EUROPE), the trade association representative of 498 European airports, and gradually expanded to all other regions. The programme provides airports with a unique common framework for active carbon management with measurable goals. The major milestones of the program are presented below.


Airport Carbon Accreditation milestones

Airport Carbon Accreditation is the only independent global industry standard for carbon management in the airport industry. Airport efforts to manage their carbon emissions are recognised with four progressive levels of accreditation:

Level 1: Mapping

Level 2: Reduction

Level 3: Optimisation

Level 3+: Neutrality.


The 4 levels of accreditation

An independent advisory board comprised of experts from the field of aviation and the environment (e.g., ICAO, UNEP, European Commission, Eurocontrol, US FAA) oversees the program. A task force regularly reviews the program, while an independent administrator ensures that the standards are applied and provides administrative support. External bodies independently verify all applications for accreditation.


By October 2015 there were 132 accredited airports representing more than 30% of world passenger traffic, including Amsterdam, Heathrow, Frankfurt, Sydney, Dubai, Hong-Kong, Dallas and Montreal airports. And, with its strong year on year growth in participation, Airport Carbon Accreditation shows that airports are now working in a collective way across the globe, to make further strides in managing, reducing and ultimately neutralising their carbon footprint. The program is financially self-sustained based on the participation fees of the airports.

Indicative airport initiatives include the implementation of solar or geothermal power, the replacement of air-cooled with water-cooled chillers, building efficiency measures, extensive use of LED lights, purchase of environmentally friendly vehicles, awareness initiatives, etc.



Some minor challenges regarding the implementation of the program’s detailed and rigorous requirements were effectively addressed through focused workshops, the development of a detailed guidance document and a webinar, and the establishment of a help-desk.


Environmentally friendly vehicle at Oslo airport


Solar panels at Adelaide airport


Airport Carbon Accreditation stakeholder workshop at Athens Airport


Airport workshop on Airport Carbon Accreditation in Brussels


As of October 2015 the following key quantitative results have been achieved:

  • 132 airports from 41 countries across the world have been accredited
  • Accredited airports represent more than 30% of world passenger traffic or more than 1.7 billion passengers a year
  • In 2014/2015 accredited airports reduced CO2 emissions under their direct control by 212,000 tonnes compared to the average of the 3 previous years
  • 20 European airports have achieved carbon neutrality

28 airports in the programme have long term emission reduction goals.7air

Airport Carbon Accreditation provides the airport industry with many benefits including:

  • Reduced CO2 emissions
  • Raised profile & credibility
  • Improved energy efficiencies
  • Reduced regulatory and litigation risks
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Standardisation & benchmarking
  • Increased shareholder value, brand reputation and stakeholder support
  • Improved reporting process on corporate responsibility
  • Consistency with international best practices and standards
  • Higher employee awareness, specialisation and motivation
  • Positive stakeholder engagement

Examples: Athens International Airport replaced the air-cooled chillers with more energy efficient water-cooled chillers. Savings are in the order of 4.500 tonnes of CO2 per year. The commissioning of a 2MW solar plant at Delhi International Airport reduced annual emissions from 3 kg of CO2/passenger to 2.6 kg of CO2/passenger. Through the tri-generation plant that was installed at Enfidah airport in Tunisia, CO2 emissions declined by 55.33% in 2014 compared to the base year (2010).

Potential for scaling up

It is expected that Airport Carbon Accreditation will continue to grow at a fast rate given the increased priority on climate change, the key role airports can play, the significant interest from airports across the world, and the effectiveness of the program. The use of the on-line application, extensive support from the help-desk, clarity of the Guidance document, and the direct face-to-face meetings with airports will further contribute to its growth. Within this framework two enabling policies would be useful:

  1. Financial support from lending institutions or governments to airports in lower income countries
  2. Formulation of government policies and Action Plans on climate change and aviation

Multi-stakeholder partnerships can play an important role regarding the development of financing mechanisms, formulation of government policies, support to airports for the implementation of emission reduction measures, initiation of communication initiatives and other tasks. These partnerships can be further developed between ACI Europe and financial institutions (e.g., World Bank), ICAO, Civil Aviation Authorities, non-government organisations, and other stakeholders.

Selected references (General information about the various program attributes) (See 2014-2015 Annual Report) (See animation)





2009 (Europe), 2011 (Asia-Pacific), 2013 (Africa), 2014 (North America, Latin America & Caribbean)


Open-ended (no finish date)


Global, Mitigation, Aviation, Policy, Partnerships, Technology, Awareness


Airport Council International (ACI) Europe and the regional ACI offices


Panagiotis Karamanos, Senior Advisor, Airport Carbon Accreditation,;+30 6945 156778

“Becoming the first carbon accredited airport in Asia-Pacific to achieve Level 3 “Optimization” not only secures recognition against the emerging industry standard for the carbon reduction work of Airport Authority Hong Kong and over 40 of our business partners, but also provides a practical framework for further improving our performance.”