Most countries around the world, as well as companies, industries and local leaders, can agree that we should be doing something to solve the problem of rising temperatures, and the impact that higher temperatures will have on the earth, what is being done varies country by country and industry by industry.
The latest figures on emissions as cited by the World Resources Institute has China as the largest producer of Global Green House Gas Emissions at 26.1%, the United States covers the number 2 spot at 12.67% with the U.S. Transportation industry being at 3.71% globally.
At the core of the Climate Change threat is Greenhouse Gases. Besides CO², Carbon Dioxide, there are other greenhouse gases. These include water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. All of these gases are needed for our existence. They provide a protective layer that keep us safe from harmful amounts of radiation, keep our temperature stable, water levels maintained and provide the atmosphere needed for life. Without them the earth would freeze over and would not be inhabitable.
The problem arises through the evolution of humanity. Many of our industrial and scientific advances have come with negative consequences that we have come to understand as causes of climate change. Carbon is a necessary element and is needed for sustained life. Carbon Dioxide, however, is also the waste product from the use of fossil fuels. We use fossil fuels for power for almost everything we do. With that understanding, as good stewards of the Earth, there are things we can do to be repair some of the damage done and ensure sustainability into the future.
The key is keeping everything in balance. While we need to transition to alternate energy sources, we also need to protect the eco-system that we have in place. Forests and oceans each remove around one-fourth of the carbon we humans have added to the atmosphere. By keeping the oceans clean and managing the forest systems we are already on our way to offsetting the global CO² emissions.
This is where innovation, technology and science come together to build solutions that can be implemented by everyone at every level, whether it be an individual, family, small business owner, government agency or mega corporation.
Individuals and families can opt to transition to high efficiency appliances and light bulbs, participate in local recycling programs, purchase electric vehicles and even install solar panels on their home. Lifestyle changes including walking and biking instead of driving, planting trees and gardens and reducing the use of electricity around the house are all great ways to do your part.
There is a dollars and cents component to sustainability that encourages small business owners to participate. There are grants and programs available to transition to equipment, vehicles and buildings that utilize alternative energy. Small things like encouraging car-pooling, educating employees and implementing resource reducing policies can all add up to a positive impact on the environment and the bottom line.
Local and Federal Governments and agencies put together plans for regulations and programs to help with implementation. We commonly see tax incentives for switching to an electric vehicle or rebates to install solar panels. Government agencies conduct research and drive the national narrative for education and oversight. They represent the U.S. on the worlds stage to collaborate for a positive global outcome.
Even the most avid environmental advocates agree that while at the start, innovative energy programs may require government assistance; eventually, all alternate energy sources must be economically viable and ultimate independent and pay their own way.
The large corporations and industries are where we have the ability to make a huge change. As we focus on the aviation industry, there are many areas to develop and implement innovations that will benefit the global cause.
Topics such as alternative fuels, aircraft design, efficient ground vehicles, buses, trains, waste management programs, reduced water and electric consumption, new construction, building retrofitting, solar farms, efficient scheduling of flights, reducing aircraft taxi and idling times, overhaul facility operations, food service, vendor selection, compliance enforcement and more are all areas we should give attention to.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Is Heavily Invested in the Future
In the New York metropolitan area, with JFK International, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International airports under the leadership of the Port Authority of New York\New Jersey, they are leading the way for implementing protective measures that make sense for the environment.
PANYNJ leadership comments, “In 2018 the Port Authority became the first public transportation agency to embrace the Paris Climate Accords, which demonstrates our profound commitment to sustainability and environmental protection. Climate change is an existential threat, and we are proud to be advancing emissions reduction initiatives at our airports to help mitigate that threat.
We also recognize that flood resilience and mitigation – both present and future – is of paramount importance for our airports to remain vital gateways to the region, and to that end, the Port Authority is building resilience into all of our development plans using industry-leading strategies.”
A major project in the works is the JFK solar installation that will create a carport canopy with solar panels on top on the southern section of the airport’s Long Term Parking Lot 9, providing covered parking to approximately 3,000 parking spaces. “JFK Airport’s solar power canopy system — New York State’s largest — will be a premier example of how the Port Authority is on the forefront of employing best-in-class renewable energy strategies to help combat the threat of climate change,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. It will provide electric to the airport and the surrounding community, to be completed by 2022. Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports are getting carport canopies as well.
PANYNJ has electrified 36 shuttle buses at LGA, EWR, and JFK airports, which is the largest all-electric fleet on the east coast. The next part of the vehicle plan is to reduce the emissions of their light-duty vehicles by committing to electrifying 50 percent of the fleet – a total of 600 to 700 vehicles – by 2023. There are so many more initiatives in the works for PANYNJ, for more information go to https://www.panynj.gov/port-authority/en/about/Environmental-Initiatives.html
The new terminal being constructed at EWR will be LEED certified Silver upon completion.
The Terminal Operators Are Leaders in Sustainable Operations
At JFK Airport, the terminal operator for Terminal 4, JFKIAT, is ahead of the game. In 2018 they were the first air terminal in the U.S. to be awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. Gold certification was awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
A few of the hallmarks of their initiatives are an intensive recycling program that takes an all hands-on deck approach. The program, developed with Royal Waste Services, involves everyone at the terminal; staff, vendors, concessions, airlines and even passengers. Communication, signage, training and ease of opportunity are at the core of their elite program. Everyone can easily comply as part of their ordinary use of the terminal.
JFKIAT are clearly leaders in the industry. They incentivize their employees to use mass transit instead of driving, they are transitioning their fleet vehicles to hybrid or electric, they are setting sustainability goals for their partners that do business in the terminal to meet, and so much more. There will be even greater opportunities to implement best practices with the upcoming expansion of T4 as part of A New JFK redevelopment. JFKIAT has a goal to reduce their carbon footprint by 35% by 2025.
“For JFKIAT, sustainability goes beyond just a commitment – it is deeply ingrained in our culture and impacts all facets of T4’s operations and experience,” said Roel Huinink, President and CEO of JFKIAT. “We are proud of the progress we have made over the past few years and we will continue to innovate and reduce our carbon footprint year over year to ensure a sustainable future for T4.”
Good things are going on over at LaGuardia airport as well. As they are wrapping up their build of a world class airport, the design was thoughtful for both function and sustainability.
In 2019 The LaGuardia Airport Terminal B redevelopment project was awarded the Envision Platinum award, recognizing the project for its industry leading approach to sustainability and resilience. The award is the highest level of recognition within The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s (ISI) awards program. The award is based on many factors such as reducing emissions, recycling programs, utilizing renewable energy sources, minimizing construction impacts and providing employment for local residents.
With programs being implemented like the new single use plastic straw elimination, creating and operating a first-class facility with a minimal environmental footprint is a priority for LGP. The more than 1.3M square foot new terminal will achieve LEED Silver certification for sustainable design and is expected to achieve LEED Gold when complete.
The new terminal also includes an energy-efficient Baggage Handling System, optimized heating and cooling systems through the Building Management System, LED lighting, water-saving fixtures, and water bottle refill stations throughout the facility.
The Airlines Have the Most to Do
United, which is operating a hub from EWR, has pledged to become 100% green by reducing greenhouse gas emissions 100% by 2050. They are the only airline globally that has committed to carbon neutrality without the use of carbon offsets. United, will instead advance towards carbon neutrality by committing to a multimillion-dollar investment in revolutionary atmospheric carbon capture technology known as Direct Air Capture (DAC) in addition to their continued investment in the development and use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). United is the first airline in the world to commit to investing in DAC technology.
Delta Air Lines, which has hubs at JFK and LGA, has committed $1 billion over the next 10 years on its journey to mitigate all emissions from its global business going forward. The airline will invest in driving innovation, advancing clean air travel technologies, accelerating the reduction of carbon emissions and waste, and establishing new projects to mitigate the balance of emissions. The airline retired over 200 aircraft and replaced them with more efficient models producing a 25% increase in efficiency. Delta Air Lines is collaborating with employees, suppliers, global partners and industry colleagues to produce the desired outcome of protecting the planet while providing world class service to their passengers.
JetBlue, based out of NY, has always been a leader in this space. Through aircraft replacement going on continuously to installation of NextGen navigation technology, they will save more than 500,000 gallons of fuel burn per year which equals over 10,000,000 CO2e savings. On some flights, the airline is using renewable jet fuel derived of 100% waste products and has an 80% reduced carbon footprint over fossil jet fuel.
At JFK, they have started to transition ground service equipment to electric power sources where feasible. The move away from conventional diesel and gasoline to electric equipment like belt loaders and bag tugs is a win-win-win. It saves money on fuel costs and maintenance and it reduces emissions and noise while introducing improved safety features. They have partnered with PANYNJ to receive an impressive $4 million grant from the FAA’s Voluntary Airport Lower Emissions (VALE) program. The awarded grant funds 60 new electric charging stations, enabling the conversion of 116 conventional ground vehicles to electric at JFK alone. The JFK electric GSE project will improve local air quality via reduction of significant air emissions (25,000 tons of CO, 1,000 tons NOx, and 265 tons SOx) over 13 years.
Terminal 5 has installed green spaces for passengers and employees to enjoy including a working farm that produces vegetables and herbs for both use at the terminal and for donations to local food banks. Terminal 5 is partnering with Royal Waste Services to remove food waste from the landfill and have it composted.
American Airlines, with hubs at JFK and LGA, has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. They will achieve that through fleet replacements, use of renewable energy, transitioning to electric ground equipment, optimizing flight operations to reduce weight, investing in NextGen, forecasting weather events, integrating green building methods at all their facilities and more.
Some Practical Concerns
With all of the innovation being implemented into real life situations for the cause of reducing and stabilizing the Earth’s temperature, there are some speed bumps. We have recently seen some limitations with utilizing renewable energy sources. When Texas experienced extreme cold temperatures and a winter storm, their power grid was knocked out due to a few factors such as solar batteries and wind turbines freezing as well as poorly winterized Natural Gas equipment. They lost about a 1/3 of their power generation leaving over 3 million Texans without power.
A few scenarios to consider at our airports. A storm could definitely cause issues with power generation. There is some heavy duty equipment used for airport operations that can’t be easily converted to alternate energy solutions. Because we operate 24 hours a day, will we need more equipment so that while equipment is being used, duplicate equipment is being charged? What is the cost of all of these retrofitting efforts and infrastructure needed to support these changes? Who does that cost get passed along to?
Electricity as we produce it today, uses fossil fuels in its creation. Electricity certainly does provide us with much cleaner emissions compared with fossil fuels, but it is not net zero as many are trying to achieve.
Aviation Is Producing Solutions for a Cleaner Environment
The aviation industry has been and continues to be a leader in reducing their environmental footprint and strengthening their leadership in a major effort to combat climate change.
There are many creative and innovative ways to achieve resilience and sustainability while serving passengers with the world-class experience they have come to expect. Utilization of Compressed Natural Gas, Hydrogen, Electric, Wind, Solar, Ocean and Bio-Fuels are all viable investments into the future that we will certainly be hearing more about.
The airlines, agencies and operators in the New York region are perfectly positioned and clearly leaders in addressing this global concern head on.