The Port of Oakland’s plan to reduce carbon emissions at the Oakland International Airport leaves out a crucial element, according to critics of its planned expansion: emissions from actual flights.
The port’s announcement this week of its plan for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions at the airport by 2040 comes just days after a broad coalition of organizations rallied at the airport to protest plans to build a new terminal, add more gates and ultimately increase air traffic in the East Bay.
Lin Griffith, a member of the steering committee for Stop OAK Expansion Coalition, which organized last week’s protest, said the plan represents merely a drop in the bucket of the airport’s emissions, primarily because it leaves out the biggest emitters.
“Ninety-nine percent of emissions are from the airplanes themselves, not airport emissions,” Griffith said. “That’s what we need to reduce.”
In pursuit of its emissions goal, the airport has already begun using electric outlets for airplanes at gates and other battery-powered equipment.The airport will also pursue further certification under the Airport Carbon Accreditation program, an international carbon management program, according to the plan released Monday. Beyond that, the plan is still light on specifics.
“We are identifying opportunities to decrease emissions even further and developing a plan to implement them,” Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan wrote in a statement. Officials said the move to join the certification program have been in the works for a year or more.
Griffith said her group, comprised of 60 separate organizations, applauded the airport for taking steps to reduce emissions from operations, but said they can’t abdicate responsibility for the number of flights in and out of the airport. Her group’s concerns largely stem from the carbon emissions created by additional flights, in addition to air and noise pollution.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, most airports exclude flight emissions from their inventories because they do not actively control airline and passenger trips to and from the airport.
In July, Oakland airport officials published a draft environmental report outlining their plans for what they described as a long overdue effort to reimagine an airport that hasn’t seen significant upgrades in decades. The plan includes the construction of a new 830,000-square-foot terminal building, upgrades to existing facilities and the addition of 16 gates.
According to the Stop OAK expansion coalition, the plans come at a time when the region should be working to phase out, rather than scale up, commercial air travel.
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The United States and Canada have committed to achieving net zero emissions at airports by 2050. California as a state has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2045.
As part of its certification under the Airport Carbon Accreditation program, the Port will be required to develop emissions inventories for 2021 and 2022, reduce carbon emissions year over year, and develop a carbon management plan.
“Joining this accreditation program demonstrates that the Port of Oakland is committed to reducing emissions at Oakland International Airport while it continues to improve its operations,” Wan said.