Late last summer, the City of Philadelphia’s Division of Aviation, which operates Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) and Northeast Philadelphia Airport, began two closely coordinated efforts: an Airport Sustainability Management Plan (SMP) and Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Plan (CARP). The DOA already has a well-established program focused on recycling and waste diversion, energy efficiency and emissions, noise management, water quality and conservation, and biodiversity.
Historically, our program has primarily targeted what we could achieve within our property boundary and through our employee and partner efforts. With our two plans, we are now seeking to combine this internal focus with an outward look, engaging employees and improving operational efficiency while doubling down on our work with outside organizations, government at all levels, international associations and the aviation industry in support of common goals.
The Division of Aviation is working closely with our City counterparts and leadership to ensure alignment and to avoid missed opportunities. This collaboration has already paid dividends. We are partnering with the City’s Zero Waste Working Group to reduce food waste. Further, our existing arrangement with the Philadelphia Water Department to convert de-icing fluid to energy through anaerobic digestion will continue to reduce energy use and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.
In pursuit of Philadelphia’s recent commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, we are carefully assessing the Division of Aviation’s airport-specific opportunities so our goals work together but account for the unique nature of our operations. We are working closely with the City and other entities to pursue renewable energy generation in a way that makes sense, and collaborating on a strategy for electricity access to optimize investment benefits based on timing and locational decisions (on-site versus grid).
We recently intensified our outreach and partnership efforts. Our Capital Development department began meeting monthly with the City’s Office of Sustainability, the Chief Resilience Officer and the Philadelphia Water Department. “This routine engagement has maximized our potential for discovering opportunities to advance climate resilience, including an emerging collaboration on a place-based resilience strategy for the area including and surrounding PHL. Once completed, this strategy will enable a holistic approach to blunting the worst consequences of climate change,” said Saleem Chapman, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Philadelphia. In addition, we are participating in the 2022 update of the Philadelphia Hazard Mitigation Plan. Through our involvement in this plan’s Infrastructure Working Group, we are seeking integration of the CARP’s priorities into the City’s initiatives to reduce long-term risk from hazardous events.
The environment, society and economy are interdependent systems, limited by planetary boundaries and driven by people. A holistic approach is necessary to address the challenges from these complex relationships. Achieving net zero carbon emissions will require meaningful changes in habit and activities as well as a transition to renewable energy; this cannot be done without overcoming barriers created by a global economy deeply entrenched in the fossil fuel industry and focusing heavily on partnerships.
The Division of Aviation will do its part. Engaging our employees, passengers and external stakeholders will be key as we continue our CARP and SMP efforts. Our goal is to develop a continual improvement processes for supporting economic development and human needs while promoting environmental conservation. We will refine our approach as changes happen and new information emerges to increase the value we can provide as an organization and airport system.