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Côte d'Azur receives carbon reduction award
Aéroports de la Côte d'Azur made a commitment to achieving net zero emissions without any offset by 2030, 20 years earlier than the worldwide commitments made under the terms of the Paris Agreement.
Read this story in our October 2021 printed issue.

The Aéroports de la Côte d'Azur has taken steps towards achieving its goal of full net zero emissions, without any offset, by 2030. It has received the Airport Carbon Accreditation level 4+ which certifies the reduction of the absolute value of its emissions, while the Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport has already become the first airport in France to claim net zero without any offsetting. The Aéroports de la Côte d'Azur group operates the Nice Côte d'Azur, Cannes Mandelieu and Golfe de Saint-Tropez airports.

Aéroports de la Côte d'Azur has made a commitment to achieving net zero emissions, without any offset, by 2030, which is 20 years earlier than the worldwide commitments made under the terms of the Paris Agreement. In 2018, it was the first in France to receive the Airport Carbon Accreditation level 3+, which certified its carbon neutrality by offsetting its residual emissions. In 2020, it started its reforestation operations directly on the site of the Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport and in the municipalities adjacent to the Cannes-Mandelieu and Nice Côte d'Azur airports. The operation in France has created natural carbon sinks capable of absorbing up to 300 tons of CO2 equivalent per year as the trees grow.

Steps were taken between 2018 and 2019, when the three airports succeeded in reducing the absolute value of their direct emissions: -4.4% for Nice, -20% for Cannes-Mandelieu and -27% for Golfe de Saint-Tropez. Despite the growth of traffic, emissions have been cut and absorption has been increased directly in the surrounding region. The Aéroports de la Côte d'Azur group has now become the first airport group in France, and second in Europe, to receive the Airport Carbon Accreditation level 4+.

“Receiving the Airport Carbon Accreditation level 4+ is not just a medal or a pretence covering up a greenwashing operation. It represents the international recognition of a sincere commitment and an ambitious and unprecedented action plan. When we reduce the absolute value of our direct emissions, we help to protect our region. This involves taking numerous actions, being innovative and looking for solutions that help to reconcile air transport with air quality requirements on a daily basis. In the future, low-emission aeroplanes will take off and land on totally decarbonised airports. This is the course of history, and we want to be its laboratory,” explains Franck Goldnadel, chairman of the board of directors of Aéroports de la Côte d'Azur.

Since the Aéroports de la Côte d'Azur group took control of Golfe de Saint-Tropez in 2013, the airport has reduced its direct emissions by 62%. In 2020, the airport's residual emissions totalled less than 17 tons, as a large-scale operation was launched to reforest one hectare of woodland, representing the capacity to absorb almost 30 tons of CO2 equivalent. These actions enable the airport to achieve net zero emissions carbon-neutrality without any offset and to ultimately absorb part of the emissions from semi-cruising aircraft.

As Nice Côte d'Azur and Cannes-Mandelieu continue to progress along the road map year after year, Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport has already reached its target.

"We have used Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport as a laboratory for new ideas and innovations, where we can test solutions and implement our carbon-neutral policy, thanks to its size and the fact that we conduct all the ground operations ourselves. The progress we have made and its benefits for the region have motivated us to go even further at all our airports in order to ultimately achieve net zero, without any offset, and to step up the efforts being made in the entire aeronautical industry to make the energy transition,” explains Goldnadel.

Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport has succeeded in slashing its direct emissions by almost two-thirds since 2013, which represents a saving of 44 tons of CO2 equivalent, for an investment of more than 150,000 euros. Simple solutions have benefitted such as replacing high-energy light bulbs with LEDs, creating light wells in the offices to limit the use of artificial lighting or insulating certain parts of the buildings. Plus other equally simple, but more costly, solutions like consuming only renewable energy or more innovative changes, such as electrifying the fleet of vehicles and runway machinery. In an innovation introduced by the Solar Impulse Foundation, four vehicles have been equipped with anti-smog devices, which immediately reduced emissions of NOx and fine particles by 67% to 94%.

"The actions we have taken over the last few years has helped to reduce emissions on a worldwide scale by consuming exclusively carbon-free electricity and to improve air quality in the region by adopting solutions that drastically reduce emissions of NOx and fine particles,” adds Isabelle Vandrot, head of sustainable development and environment at Aéroports de la Côte d'Azur.

The last stage of the airport's strategy to achieve net zero, without any offset, consists of reforesting part of its land by planting 1,100 Mediterranean trees. This natural carbon sink will have the potential to absorb 30 tons of CO2 equivalent in the coming years or double the airport's residual emissions. In addition, the 20 hectares of woodland beside the runways will be restored in an effort to revitalise the trees and increase the effects of photosynthesis.

"Today, Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport is fully equipped to absorb all of its residual emissions, but also to go further and to offset a part of the emissions from aircraft in flight, for which we are not directly responsible. To us, it makes sense to take the broadest and most efficient action as possible, because we are one link in the air transport chain. Absorbing as much as possible, but also preparing the fuels of the future, are the best ways of conserving our region and pursuing our activities that are essential to its reputation and vitality,” concludes Goldnadel.

In addition to the actions it has taken on air quality, Golfe de Saint-Tropez airport has also launched operations in favour of the broader natural ecosystem. The replacement of CCTV cameras with infrared cameras has made it possible to switch off the powerful spotlights that were to protect the security of the site at night. Without this artificial light, and with the silence produced by closing the runways at night, local bird life is able to enjoy the calm it needs. Along the same lines, measures taken to protect the plants, wildlife and the entire environment in the immediate vicinity of the airport will be stepped up under the terms of a partnership agreement with the Aéro Biodiversité NGO.

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