For the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at Frankfurt Airport, the operating company Fraport AG has set itself new, much more ambitious targets than before: Within the next seven years, emissions are to be more than halved - from the current 116,000 tons to 50,000 tons per year. So far, 75,000 tons in 2030 were the goal. The objectives relate to the operation of the airport on the ground. Before the outbreak of the corona pandemic, emissions in Frankfurt amounted to 170,310 tonnes of CO2 – that was the record year 2019.

Jochen Remmert

Airport editor and correspondent Rhein-Main-Süd.

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If you add the emissions from air traffic, however, there were a total of 1.75 million tons of carbon dioxide in Frankfurt at the time, as Fraport reports. As a rule, the airport operator only takes into account greenhouse gas emissions that occur during take-offs and landings below an altitude of 914 metres. If one also takes into account the flight movements above this altitude, the air traffic originating from Frankfurt emits 14.6 million tons of carbon dioxide annually (as of 2019), more than the entire Hessian road traffic.

Schulte: CO2 certificates do not help in the long term

In 2045, Fraport nevertheless wants to operate completely free of greenhouse gases in its immediate sphere of influence according to the new plan in Frankfurt and at all foreign airports in which the Frankfurt airport managers hold more than 50 percent of the shares. These would be the Group's airports in Peru, Brazil, Greece, Bulgaria and Slovenia.

At the presentation of the plans, Fraport CEO Stefan Schulte emphasized that they wanted to realize a carbon-dioxide-free airport operation, not just a climate-neutral operation: "CO2-free means that we will achieve this without offsetting our emissions," said Schulte. "We do not rely on the future effectiveness of compensatory measures. We go the direct way." According to the Fraport Executive Board, purchasing carbon dioxide certificates from climate protection projects in order to offset climate-damaging emissions is not the solution to combating climate change in the long term. Avoiding and reducing emissions is the central task. Every company in the aviation industry must also face up to this.

At Fraport, decarbonization also means saving energy and ensuring a supply of CO2-free energy. Saving means upgrading Fraport's existing buildings in terms of energy efficiency, for example with the help of intelligent, needs-based building technology for air conditioning and lighting. This has so far reduced 19,400 tons of carbon dioxide.

More wind power from the North Sea

The comprehensive conversion to LED lighting in buildings is also a matter of course. But Fraport has also largely converted the lighting of the taxiway system to LED lighting, which has been done, for example, in the course of the already regularly due work on the surfaces of the runways. The airport-wide conversion to LED lighting alone has saved around 3200 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Further facets are the conversion of the vehicle fleet to electric vehicles and the energetic optimization of the baggage handling system in the underground of the airport, which has now grown to a length of around 80 kilometers.

In order to achieve the climate target set, however, the electricity mix is decisive for the infrastructure facility at the major airport, with which the airport's enormous energy demand is to be covered in the future, despite all the cost-cutting efforts. From 2026 onwards, Fraport will primarily rely on wind power from the North Sea. The company has concluded a corresponding contract with the energy provider EnBW. Around 85 percent of Frankfurt Airport's total electricity demand will then be covered by wind power from the North Sea. Since 2021, Fraport has also been purchasing onshore wind energy, which covers up to 15 percent of demand.

For years, Fraport has also been using the roofs of cargo halls in Cargo City South to install large-scale photovoltaic systems that generate green electricity on its own site. "Green electricity is the key to sustainable climate-friendly working across all branches of industry," says Schulte. With the decision for wind energy from the North Sea and modern photovoltaics on a megawatt scale, the course was set at an early stage. This line will be pursued.

The Frankfurt airport operators also increasingly want to secure the power supply of the parked aircraft, which currently still works in many cases with auxiliary engines, with systems that run on green electricity and not kerosene. As part of the industry, Fraport supports all efforts to reduce aircraft CO2 emissions, for example through synthetic fuels and research into new types of propulsion.