Research Projects

Determining Carbon Removal Opportunities at Airports to Achieve Net Zero Emissions In Reserve

Assigned to Brendan Reed
Last Edited by Brendan Reed

The proposed research project would evaluate carbon removal strategies that could be deployed at airports to help achieve "Net Zero Emissions" in order to align with global emission reduction targets and to address increasing public scrutiny. Carbon removal strategies include both natural (e.g., tree plantings and agricultural soil management) and technological approaches (e.g., carbon-absorbing concrete and direct air capture).

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Airports across the US have successfully implemented a wide array of projects, programs, and policies to reduce carbon emissions associated with their operations. However, airports are under increasing public scrutiny by elected officials, environmental organizations, and community members (i.e. "flight shaming") to more drastically reduce their emissions to align with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's target of "Zero Net Emissions" by 2050. Some industry experts even predict that this external pressure will only increase now that air travel and its associated emissions have been temporarily reduced due to the COVID-19 crisis. As such, airports will likely have to complement their current emission reduction projects (such as installing renewable energy systems and electrifying ground transportation fleets) with onsite carbon removal strategies.
Carbon removal strategies have not yet been widely adopted at airports (if at all) and there is a general lack of knowledge on them in the aviation industry. Therefore, the proposed project would provide foundational research for airports to better understand carbon removal strategies (both technology and nature-based) and their potential applicability at an airport setting. Understanding that there is unlikely a "one size fits all" solution, the research will help differentiate strategies by variables like geological conditions, geographic location, land use characteristics, funding availability etc. This information will be critical to help US airports successfully integrate carbon removal into their long-term planning and development initiatives and to effectively respond to their community's concerns on aviation's climate change impacts.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

The objective of this research project is to develop a "roadmap" for airports interested in achieving Net Zero Emissions by evaluating the applicability and feasibility of carbon removal strategies to various airport settings and by developing recommendations for their successful on-the-ground implementation.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

- Summarize available carbon removal strategies (technology & nature-based), with special attention to near-term options such as carbon-absorbing building and pavement materials.
- Compile case studies on their application in other industries, especially other transportation sectors if available.
- Evaluate their general applicability to an airport setting.
- Evaluate siting parameters to help airports determine the optimal strategies for their facilities.
- Assess possible funding options and financing approaches, such as public-private partnerships.
- Provide recommendations for integrating into airport planning and capital development programs.
- Provide recommendations for successful on-the-ground implementation.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

ACRP Synthesis 53: Outcomes of Green Initiatives: Large Airport Experience.
ACRP Synthesis 100: Airport Greenhouse Gas Reduction Efforts.
ACRP Report 57: The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports.
ACRP Report 80: Guidebook for Incorporating Sustainability into Traditional Airport Projects.
ACRP Report 02-82: Developing a Roadmap to Achieve Zero Emissions at Airports.

Idea No. 285