Heathrow Airport invests in Scottish carbon sinks as it goes carbon neutral

A Dundee farming pilot and an Ullapool woodland creation project are among the carbon capture projects playing a key role as Heathrow Airport becomes carbon neutral.

From: Heathrow director of sustainability Matt Gorman, Helaina Black of the James Hutton Institute and Stewart Arbuckle, co-founder Dundee's Agricarbon. Picture: Contributed
From: Heathrow director of sustainability Matt Gorman, Helaina Black of the James Hutton Institute and Stewart Arbuckle, co-founder Dundee's Agricarbon. Picture: Contributed

Heathrow has announced it is among the first major airports to achieve carbon neutral status, meaning its emissions are cancelled out by purchasing carbon offsets.

This comes as the airport confirmed it is investing £1.8 million throughout 2020 to “kick-start” the restoration of natural UK carbon sinks – such as peatlands, woodlands and farming soils.

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These include a regenerative farming project at Invergowrie near Dundee, which the airport has supported since 2018, and a new native woodland planting scheme at Ledmore near Ullapool.

In partnership with Forest Carbon, the Ledmore project will cover 87.4 hectares and help explore opportunities for woodlands to deliver effective UK carbon offsetting alongside other benefits like boost biodiversity and supporting better soil and water quality.

Heathrow is partnering with James Hutton Institute, a Dundee-headquartered research organisation which aims to drive sustainable use of land and natural resources.

Zero carbon by mid-2030s

The airport – which is the size of a small city – claims to have reduced emissions from its operations by 93 per cent compared with 1990, following investment of more than £100m in energy efficiency and renewable power measures.

It will use offsetting as an interim measure to reduce carbon emissions in the short-tern, as it works towards operating a zero carbon airport infrastructure by the mid-2030s.

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Helaina Black, a senior soil scientist and an honorary associate of the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, said: “We are pleased to be able to support initiatives like Heathrow’s, which will help farmers and other land managers to increase and restore carbon stores in soils and ecosystems.

“It is vital that this carbon benefit is realised in the short term to address the climate crisis.”

This follows a commitment from the UK aviation industry to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 by working with governments around the world and through the UN. Early next week, Heathrow will be rolling out its Target Net-Zero action plan to support this commitment.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye added: “Making our infrastructure entirely carbon neutral is a significant milestone and a testament to the determination of our airport to help spearhead a new era of sustainable aviation.

“Our sights are now set on working with the global aviation industry to deliver on net-zero by 2050, at the latest. We can and will cut the environmental cost of flying whilst keeping the benefits of travel for future generations.”