The airport plans to make its activities carbon neutral and to pump funds into local schemes to reduce the carbon footprint of the whole region.
Before the end of the year, Newcastle International will calculate the total carbon emissions produced by its ground operations, passengers’ transport and aircraft arrivals and departures, with a view to reducing carbon emissions where possible and offsetting the rest.
An offsetting fund will be created, with the money going into schemes to improve the energy efficiency of homes in deprived areas of Tyneside and to supply them with renewable forms of energy. Biodiversity projects to improve local wildlife habitats are also among the schemes likely to benefit from the new fund.
Passengers taking flights from the airport will also be able to make donations to the fund, but these will not be compulsory.
The plans are outlined in the Newcastle International Airport Climate Change Policy, which has just been approved by the airport’s board.
The aviation industry has come under close scrutiny for its contribution to climate change.
Airport head of planning and corporate affairs Graeme Mason said the continued growth of the airport was vital to the North-East’s economy, but stressed the importance of sustainable development that mitigates the environmental impact of its growing operations.
He said: “Our aim is to become known as one of Europe’s greenest airports. We want to put ourselves ahead of other airports and we believe that our climate change policy will not only do that, but will complement the economic benefit that the airport brings by channelling resources into reducing the region’s carbon footprint. I think we have taken this step at a time when there is still a consensus of support for the airport in the region. Aviation is centre stage in terms of the climate change debate and we are under pressure.”
Newcastle International has already invested in methods to reduce the impact its activities have on the surrounding environment, including installing an advanced noise monitoring system and careful monitoring of the rare species of wildlife which live on the airport’s rural site.
The airport is currently looking into plans to install renewable energy sources on site, making its buildings more energy efficient and further improving public transport links. Already 20% of waste there is recycled and the airport hopes this will increase in the coming months and years.
Graeme said: “Carbon offsetting schemes are still evolving in terms of what is the right thing to do and how we can ensure it delivers real and measurable benefits.
“There are a number of schemes adopted by companies across the region, but it’s not clear how much of the money is going to offsetting and what benefits these schemes actually deliver. We want to raise as much money as we can and allocate the funds back into the region. We are also keen to challenge other organisations in the North-East to do the same.”