Aena shareholders approve action plan against climate change

MADRID (Reuters) - Aena shareholders voted in favour of an action plan against climate change at the Spanish airport operator’s annual general meeting on Thursday, following pressure from activist investor Chris Hohn, founder of the TCI fund.

Under the new goals, airports in Aena’s network will be 100% energy self-sufficient -- largely using solar panels -- and carbon neutral by 2026, with the carbon compensation mechanisms yet to be decided.

That should help it meet targets set out in the Paris Agreement.

The company also hopes to reach net-zero emissions by 2040, instead of the initially planned 2050 deadline, meaning it would not rely on compensation mechanisms to make up for its emissions. Progress will be evaluated annually.

Airport operators around the globe are facing dual challenges of coronavirus travel restrictions and pressure to reduce their carbon footprint.

Aena decided to take advantage of sharply lower air-traffic and government green incentive programs to make structural changes to its business, according to innovation and sustainability director Amparo Brea.

“We’ve invested 15 million euros in solar panel installations across our networks, with 335 million yet to be spent,” Brea said.

She added that the push to minimise emissions would be written into contracts across its different business areas, like handling and other third-party services.

Addressing the group’s shareholders, Chairman Maurici Lucena stressed the new climate plan would not mean lower earnings.

“There will be no dilemma, no tradeoff between environmental protection and profitability,” he said at the annual shareholders’ meeting on Thursday.

Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette and Isla Binnie; Editing by Nathan Allen and David Evans