European airline emissions continue to grow

Eight airlines grew their carbon emissions at a faster rate than Ryanair on flights within Europe last year, according to the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E). 

Low-cost airlines Jet2, Wizz Air, EasyJet, Vueling and Norwegian and national carriers TAP, Finnair and Lufthansa all out-paced the Dublin-based carrier, which had the highest overall emissions on European routes in 2018, according to EU Emissions Trading scheme data analysed by T&E. Jet2’s emissions grew by 20%, some 7% higher than the next fastest airline.  

T&E says the top 10 growing polluters show that aviation’s runaway emissions are a problem for the whole airline sector, which governments have left untaxed and under-regulated compared to other transport sectors. Emissions from flights within Europe account for only 40% of the problem – the remaining 60% comes from flights to destinations outside Europe and these are entirely unregulated.

Andrew Murphy, Aviation Manager at T&E, said: ‘Airlines’ emissions are booming and not just on cheap flights. National carriers and low-cost airlines all benefit from paying no fuel tax and VAT while the rest of us must pay our way. Governments and the EU need to wake up, starting with a tax on kerosene and clean fuel mandates that force airlines to switch to zero-emission jet fuel.’

Rather than taxing and regulating aviation emissions, governments are pursuing a UN offsetting scheme that will allow aviation emissions to continue growing, despite the EU deciding to discontinue offsetting in its climate policy from 2021. 

The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) will allow airlines to continue to grow their emissions each year up to 2020 and account for any surplus growth by buying offsets. 

One criticism is that offsets allow airlines to avoid immediate changes in behaviour which would actively reduce their carbon footprints, by investing in hard-to-verify environmental projects instead. 

Murphy added: ‘It’s no surprise that aviation emissions continue to soar as governments have wasted two decades trying to make offsetting work. It’s now time to call it quits on this failed climate policy, and instead focus on proven measures – taxing kerosene, and ultimately replacing it with zero-emission fuels.’

Currently, the aviation industry produces around 2% of global CO2 emissions, and rapid growth would put it on track to consume a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050. 

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