News & Blog

Read the latest business news, blogs and thought leadership articles from our members, as well as updates on the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce's work in the city.

News & Blog


Posted: 20th October 2021

Edinburgh could play an innovative global leadership role in creating a “bridge” between today’s carbon-fuelled aviation sector and the carbon free aviation industry of the future.

And in taking a more imaginative approach over the next 30 – 50 years, Scotland’s Capital could lay claim to becoming the world’s leading green tourism destination.

Edinburgh Airport’s Director of Communications and Sustainability, Gordon Robertson, told businesses attending an online forum on Green Tourism that “true leadership” would create a path that other nations might follow.

He was speaking at an online event organised by Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce in partnership with The City of Edinburgh Council. This was one of five themed events hosted for the city’s business community in the run up to the UN COP26 climate change conference next month.

He said: “What our country needs, and what aviation needs, is a bridge between current carbon-based aviation industry and a future, carbon free aviation industry. A bridge that might have an impact in surprising and welcome ways.

“What might this look like? Well, any bridge doesn’t need to be complex, but it does need to be widely supported and embraced.

“Imagine that we all, Scotland’s tourism and visitor industry, take responsibility for some or all of the aviation carbon emitted while our customers are in the air. Airlines can’t take it all, and why should they, when we all benefit from what they do. Th burden is surprisingly small when it is shared widely. Our calculation is that it is less than £5 per head per European passenger at current carbon prices.

“So, let’s say we find a way to gather funds to meet the cost of carbon, so every passenger flying into Edinburgh could do so carbon neutrally. We could then go further. We could say that not only could we meet the cost, in fact we will use those funds to generate some of the most exciting carbon reduction schemes right here in Scotland, and in Edinburgh. Things that would show leadership that other countries might want to follow.

“We could create that concept by creating a higher value for carbon for our travel trade scheme. It would create real carbon reduction schemes that otherwise might not happen.

“It could be criticised as another offset scheme that some people say simply avoids the problem or kicks the can down the road. But if the projects we invest in are in Edinburgh, and we can all see them, and we can see the results of them, then that is different. If it begins to solve problems that no-one here has the answer to then that is different too. And it could also bring rational and wise Edinburgh-wide investment decisions that focus on real solutions rather than posturing.

“This might be a true bridge to a new carbon free aviation future. We are excited about this because we hear target after target announced, but the practical delivery projects are short because there simply isn’t a revenue driven strategy. We want to help change the conversation.”

Mr Robertson told attendees that the Airport was still operating 60% down on the levels of pre-pandemic numbers. Despite the airport suffering massively through the past months, he added, they were determined to continue to play a leading role in the city’s journey to net zero carbon.

“We all share in the ambition for a cleaner, greener future. It would be easy for us to prioritise recovery and recovery alone. Like others in the travel and tourism sector, we are all on our knees. We are breathing but not living yet, like others. So we could put tackling climate change in a box marked nice to do but not now – but we’re not and we won’t.”

He stressed that the Airport believed passionately in the achieving net zero and – in some areas of the business – they have already achieved that. The Airport is a signatory of the Edinburgh Climate Compact, providing leadership in the city’s drive to reach net zero by 2030.

However, he argued that it was essential that a more rounded view was taken of sustainability, balancing the many economic, social and cultural benefits that aviation and travel bring to the city to ensure a more shared, collective approach was taken.

Edinburgh is the second biggest gateway for international visitors in the UK outside London – in recent years 2.4 million foreign visitors came through the airport annually.

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
Read more here