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Sustainable airports and climate

change: A case study of GMR

IGI Airport, Delhi
Dr Prachee Javadekar, CEO & Director & Dr Sonal Bhat,
Research Associate with Parigha Research &
Consultancy in India, look at the progress Delhi
International Airport is making towards mitigating the
effects of climate change and a sustainable future.

One must care about the world one will not see

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi, regarded as the father of our nation had said that we
should act as ‘trustees’ and use natural resources wisely as it is our moral
responsibility to ensure that we bequeath to the future generations a healthy

The challenge of climate change calls for extraordinary vision, leadership,

compassion and wisdom. Human ingenuity and intellect will also play an
important role in addressing this challenge. The cumulative accumulation of
greenhouse gases (GHGs) historically since industrial revolution has resulted
in the current problem of global warming. This is further compounded by the
tepid and inadequate response of the developed countries even after the
adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC) and delineation of obligations and responsibilities. As a result, an
‘emission’ ambition gap has been created calling for enhanced global actions
to address it. India, even though not a part of the problem, has been an active
and constructive participant in the search for solutions.

India has been active in addressing the climate change challenge. India
ratified the Kyoto Protocol, has been involved in the international negotiations
to develop a successor to this protocol, formulated a National Action Plan on
Climate Change (2008), introduced eight National Missions (e.g. enhanced
energy efficiency, strategic knowledge for climate change), established the
Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment, and developed several
Clean Development Mechanism(CDM) projects.

Regarding aviation and climate change, in a breakthrough development in late

2013, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) agreed to develop a
global market based system for aviation emissions in its next Assembly
meeting scheduled in 2016 for implementation from 2020 and to establish a
CO2 emissions standard. Although the exact nature and implications to
airlines of this system are not currently known, it is likely that it will be based
on some form of carbon offsetting creating incentives for emissions reduction.
Until recently, Indian scheduled airlines flying to European Union (EU)
countries, were supposed to be part of the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme
(ETS). Over the years, India took a leadership role in opposing with many
other countries (e.g., US, Russia, China) the EU-ETS, refusing to provide data
to the EU and supporting the work of ICAO. The ICAO agreement practically
put an end to EU’s initiative to include foreign airlines in their ETS. This was
further corroborated by EU’s decision in 2014 to restrict the ETS only to intra-
European flights. Within this framework, a number of initiatives are also being
implemented in the Indian aviation sector.

Aviation sector and its impact on climate change

India represents a growing aviation market with more than 100 airports that
during fiscal year 2013/2014 handled around 170 million passengers. The
major scheduled passenger airlines operate more than 400 aircrafts. Aviation
represents around 1.5% of India’s GDP and supports 9 million jobs, while the
country ranks 9th in the global civil aviation market. It is expected that
domestic and international passenger traffic will continue to grow at rates of
12% and 8% respectively and that India will become the 3rd largest aviation
market in the world by 2020.1

Aviation industry, though a small contributor, is aggressively working to

minimise the adverse impact on the environment. India’s aviation industry has
also taken proactive initiatives to address this issue. The country’s aviation
stakeholders have taken a number of important steps to address their
contribution to climate change. Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)
has issued guidelines and Civil Aviation Requirements (CARs) addressing
emission issues and creating environmental awareness in this sector. Indian
aviation industry has a fleet of modern aircrafts and Indian airports are
participating in the prestigious global initiative ‘Airport Carbon Accreditation’
program governed by Airport Council of India (ACI).

Apart from this, Airports Authority of India (AAI) is also working on several
projects to improve the air traffic management at airports. The stakeholders
have been advised to establish Environment Cell in their organisations and to
develop their carbon footprint. Airlines have been advised for retrofitting on
existing aircraft, adopting aggressive fuel efficiency methods, exploring the
possibility of using biofuels, fixing of winglets & riblets, minimising dead
weights on board, improving load factors, adhering to the maintenance
schedules, selection of appropriate aircraft on a particular route, improving
taxing and parking procedures, etc.

The challenge brought by the legacy of greenhouse gases forces us to reflect

upon the interests of future generations. From intergenerational equity point of
view, it is our moral responsibility to maintain and sustain the environment on
the Earth and an obligation to pass it on to the future generations in
reasonable condition. The Precautionary Principle to contain emission at
source has been ingrained in environmental laws of India and is being applied
very well in Civil Aviation sector.

A carbon footprint represents an important policy tool to understand the

sources and magnitude of CO2 emissions, identify areas for intervention,
make comparisons, formulate emission reduction proposals, and assess
progress. A carbon footprint is historically defined as “the total sets of
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an organisation, event, product
or person (Source: Wikipedia).
A Carbon Footprint is an important tool for assessment of an organisation’s
GHG emissions and its progress in the subsequent years. It also acts as an
important framework tool to understand the various sources of CO 2 emissions,
gap analysis and formulation of policies for emission reduction. In order to
formulate an effective policy to address the challenge of climate change, it is
important to identify emission trends and make predictions about its future
growth. This is especially important for fast growing industries, such as Indian
aviation industry.

The first carbon footprint report for the year 2011 was released by DGCA and
the Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)
during the 49th DGCA Conference held in October, 2012 in New IGIA. The
carbon footprint for the year 2012 was released during 38th ICAO General
Assembly held at Montreal, Canada during September/ October, 2013.

Government Initiatives for aviation sector to combat

climate change

DGCA issued guidelines and Civil Aviation Requirements on addressing the

use of aircraft power supply, fuel efficiency, single engine taxi and data
reporting. One of the most important initiatives is release of Civil Aviation
Requirements, 2015 on Climate Change Initiatives and Local Air Quality
Monitoring in Civil Aviation. According to this CAR, the airports shall submit
fuel and electricity consumption data and airlines shall submit ATF
consumption for aircraft main engine and APUs annually. Both airport and
airlines were also asked to develop their own carbon footprint management
plan. DGCA also undertook the first-ever detailed carbon footprint of Indian
aviation for 2011. Furthermore, a number of training sessions and workshops
on climate change have been delivered to industry representatives both in
India and abroad.

Airport initiatives

Since airports represent the nodal point of aviation activities such flights,
passenger/public access and third party operations, it shall play a key role in
establishing guidelines for emission reductions. Airports can contribute to the
reduction of aircraft emissions in collaboration with airlines, air traffic control
and public authorities. In India, GMR Group and GVK Group are two major
players in aviation industry, today.
GMR Group being a conscious partner, has been proactive in adopting
measures towards GHG emissions. The GMR Group’s , Indira Gandhi
International Airport (IGIA), IGIA is one of the founding members of the India
Green House Gas Program, an initiative by CII (Confederation of Indian
Industries), TERI(The Energy & Resources Institute) and WRI (World
Resources Institute), to support organisations to map and reduce greenhouse
gases from various sectors.

Responsible GMR Group-Measures undertaken at IGIA

LEED certification

IGIA is the first in the world to have achieved LEED Gold rating for its green
infrastructure. Terminal 3 of IGI Airport is passenger and environmentally
responsible airport facilities.

Salient features of LEED Gold certified T3 building are :

 Energy efficient infrastructure and technology adoption

 Water efficient air conditioning, plumbing & irrigation

 Reduction in pollution & waste due to construction by effective site &

 Provision for eco-friendly vehicles

 Rain water harvesting & reuse of treated waste water

 Use of no chlro-fluro carbon based refrigerants

GreenCo Platinum certificate by CII

IGI airport is certified as Green Company to Platinum Level under GreenCo

Framework organised by CII-GBC for excellence in the field of energy,
environment and sustainable developments. This framework assesses
environmental performance of an organisation in 8 environmental related
parameters energy efficiency, water conservation, GHG emission, renewable
energy, waste management, material conservation, recycling & recyclables,
green supply chain and innovation. IGI airport upgraded its GreenCo Rating
from Gold Level to Platinum Level in the year 2016.

IGI Airport was the first airport in India to achieve Gold rating in the year 2015.
Besides it has also received “the best practices award in renewable energy
and GHG management” during the year 2015.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

Energy efficiency measures implemented in T3 have been registered with

UNFCCC as a CDM project. IGI airport is the first airport in the world that
achieved CDM registration with UNFCCC. The components of CDM project
are :

 Energy efficient HVAC System

 Tempered cooling system

 Low u-value building envelope and roof

 VVFD and radar sensor based travellators & escalators

Promotion of Renewable Energy
GMR Group has installed 7.84 MW solar plant at IGI airport and is the first
airport in India to have a mega solar plant at airside premises. This measure
has been taken to promote renewable energy use and reduce associate
emission and support National Climate Change Action Plan.

Environmental Management System & GHG Reporting

IGI airport’s EMS is certified as per ISO 14001:2004 since 2009. It is also
certified under ISO 14064 for its GHG emission inventory and management.
The airport has achieved Level 3 (optimisation of GHG emission) under
Carbon Accreditation program managed by Airport Council International (ACI).

Energy Management System

IGI airport is the first airport in the world to be certified for Energy
Management System (ISO 50001:2011). With adoption of this, the airport is
mandated to have all its processes well mapped, regularly reviewed and
constantly improved to meet the airport policies. It helps in significant carbon
emission reduction from airport function.

Fixed electrical ground power (FEGP) & pre-conditioned air (PCA)

FEGP units prevent the use of auxiliary power unit resulting in reduced
emissions from fuel combustion and related noise from aircraft APU. Aircrafts
on ground require electrical energy for operating their control systems and
other internal components. There are 78 stands at T3 equipped with FEGP
and PCA units which significantly support in green building initiative at IGI

Other GHG mitigation activities:

 Multimodal connectivity

 Airport collaborative decision making

 Dedicated CNG filling station inside airport

 Energy efficient advanced STP and WTP

 Integrated building management system

 Rain water harvesting

 Battery operated vehicles for terminal buildings

 Regular air quality monitoring around the airport

 Regular vehicle pollution checks

 Carpool network website for employees

 Fuel hydrant systems

 Landscaping and tree plantation

 GHG inventory


GMR Group has recognised the contribution that aviation makes to economic,
social and cultural development in India and worldwide. They have also
recognised the impact of aviation that can have on local communities and the
environment. They believe that both aviation and airports can expand
sustainably by enhancing economic and social benefits while also respecting
environmental limits. They believe that the growth of aviation and avoiding
dangerous climate change is not a zero sum game. Both can be achieved
through use of technological advanced infrastructures, low carbon fuels and
more efficient operations supported by aviation’s participation with

Thus, achieving sustainable airports is key to GMR Group’s vision for their
airports to be ‘India’s hub of choice’.

1. “Carbon Footprint of Indian Aviation”, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, 2013

2. “Aviation Best Practices: Climate Change & Emission Reductions-2015”-India GHG

Program-GMR airport Publication

By Dr Prachee Javadekar, Dr Sonal Bhat

6 April 2017

202 

Emissions, Environment, Regulation & Legislation, Sustainable development

Indira Gandhi International Airport

International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)

Central and South Asia
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