“More and more airports have become involved in management programmes that advance their environmental protection, economic efficiency and social responsibility,” enthused Tounsi.
Pioneered by ACI Europe in 2009, Airport Carbon Accreditation assesses and recognises airports’ efforts to measure, manage and reduce CO2 emissions while certifying them at four different levels of accreditation this covers all stages of carbon management including mapping, reduction, optimisation and neutrality.
Shedding light on the importance of the programme, Tounsi stated, “ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation is an example of how initiatives can become much bigger than originally planned, when examples of sustainability commitments are shared, in turn inspiring others to follow, especially when they positively affect airports’ license to grow, facilitate and improve stakeholder engagement, and improve efficiency. It is a win-win approach.”
Dubai International and Al Maktoum International Airport are the first airports in the GCC, and two of 56 internationally, to achieve ACI’s Level 2 accreditation, while more Middle Eastern and African hubs are on the way to becoming carbon neutral.
In addition, and as a part of its strategy to limit environmental impact, Dubai Airports succeeded in saving 5.17 million kilowatt-hours in 2016 by participating in Earth Hour, when all non-essential lights across both hubs switched off for one hour.
On top of that, both hubs have actively participated in events such World Clean Up Day and launched several eco-friendly projects including the optimisation of chiller plants, as well as the deployment of energy variable frequency drives for pumps and automation.
Together with its supply chain partners, International Air Transport Association has defined sustainability as one of its core priorities, adopting a multi-faced four-pillar aviation strategy thats focussed on improving technology through the deployment of sustainable low-carbon fuels, more efficient aircraft operations by promoting taxiing on one engine, encouraging airlines to retrofit winglets and replace pilot paper manuals with laptops.
Another milestone in the context of managing emissions was the establishment of Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation Council (CORSIA) during the 39th edition of International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly.
“CORSIA is the first global carbon offsetting scheme covering an industrial sector,” indicated Albakri, who further explained that the programme has been warmly welcomed by the sector with 65 states already volunteering to implement the scheme, which will cover approximately 80 percent of CO2 growth in 2021-2035.
FACING THE CHALLENGES
Talking about the future of aviation in the MENA region, Albakri pointed out that despite the encouraging figures forecasted by global organisations, questions still linger as the region grapples with several challenges.
At the top of the list are safety and security issues.
Aiming to meet the ever-increasing demand for cybersecurity, SITA and Airbus have recently joined forces to launch a new Security Operations Center Services, providing airlines, airports and other air transport industry stakeholders with information about unusual cyber activity.
As El-Asaad disclosed, SITA’s Airline IT Trends Survey 2016 revealed that 91 percent of airlines plan to invest in cybersecurity programmes over the next three years.
Improvement of air traffic management in the Gulf countries is another obstacle highlighted by Albakri, who argued that delays will almost double by 2025 if the region’s invisible infrastructure is not upgraded to help deal with the rapid growth of the aviation sector.
“Technology will also play a role in helping airports in the region to manage a growing number of passengers. Enhancing capacity and ensuring seamless operations is one of the primary drivers for GCC airports, which are expected to handle 450 million passengers by 2020,” elaborated El-Asaad.
The need to face the unprecedented rise in taxes and charges especially in the UAE and African countries, including Tunisia and Egypt has been raised. “Every dollar that a passenger spends in the region creates jobs and spreads prosperity and every dollar collected in taxes or charges is an incentive for travellers to go elsewhere,” pinpointed Albakri.
To reflect on these topics and more, 200 industry thought leaders, government officials and journalists gather every year for the Arab Aviation Summit.
Taking place annually in a different Arab city, the event is considered an ideal partnership of the public and private sectors along with the media community.
As concluded during the latest gathering, held in Jordan, the aviation industry in the MENA region is expected to grow.
With the subcontinent in close proximity to international hubs, natural beauties, historic sites and wonders, it has the potential to become one of the world’s fastest growing regions for air movements.