Let's make all Scottish flights carbon neutral with bold solar power offsetting scheme – Edinburgh Airport

All Scottish flights could become carbon neutral by offsetting their impact on the environment with bold schemes such as solar power in hospitals or schools, the leader of Scotland’s busiest airport has proposed.

Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar hailed the potential scheme as a “true bridge to our carbon-free aviation future”.

He said: “The enemy here is carbon. It’s not aviation.

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"It’s not the international student choosing to study here. It’s not the hard-earned family break in Tenerife.

Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar addressing the Scottish Passenger Agents Association centenary dinner last week. Picture: SPAA/Paul Chappells

"It’s not the flight to close the vital deal to bring investment into Scotland. It’s not the family moving to Scotland for a better life.”

The airport has said it became carbon neutral itself this year, and plans its own “solar farm” to provide one quarter of its energy needs.

However, Mr Dewar admitted a mechanism would have to be found to fund carbon offsetting from flying, which he estimated as less than £5 per passenger on flights within Europe.

In July, Loganair said it was the first airline to overtly introduce a compulsory environmental levy with a £1 “carbon offset charge” on flights as its first step to becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

Edinburgh Airport is planning a "solar farm" to provide one quarter of its energy needs. Picture: Gareth Easton Photography

Mr Dewar, who announced his “big idea” at the Scottish Passenger Agents Association’s centenary dinner, said: “Let us, as Scotland’s travel industry, take responsibility for some or all of the aviation carbon emitted while our customers were in the air.

"We know that airlines can’t take all the pain themselves, and why should they, when we all benefit from what they do?

“But that burden is surprisingly small if it were shared wider - less than £5 per European passenger at current carbon prices.

“Let us say that over time we would find ways to collect funds to meet that carbon so that every passenger flying to and from Scotland could do it carbon neutrally.

“We can then go further and not only would we meet the cost, we would generate some of the most exciting and inclusive carbon reduction schemes right here in Scotland.

“We will create that concept by setting a higher value of carbon for our travel trade scheme that would help others invest in projects that would otherwise not happen, say £30 per tonne of carbon saved.”

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Mr Dewar said in addition to “proven paths” such as tree planting, the projects could include funding solar power for schools or hospitals, heat pumps or insulation for council housing, and decarbonising research by Scottish universities and businesses.

He said: “As long as aviation is attributed, the carbon savings this would be real and meaningful – a true bridge to our carbon free aviation future.”

The Scottish Greens said the airport had to prove it was serious.

Transport spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “While it’s important to hear Mr Dewar talk about sustainability, it’s vital the aviation industry walks the talk.

"The truth is the ‘growth at any cost’ mindset which is prevalent in the industry needs to change if they are to be taken seriously.

“If this new-found sense of responsibility is genuine, that is to be welcomed, but ultimately Edinburgh Airport, and others in the industry, will need to demonstrate through their actions that they are serious about playing their part in tackling the damage their industry does.”

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