While Europe’s aviation sector brings significant economic and social benefits, its activities contribute to climate change, noise and local air quality impacts, and consequently affect the health and quality of life of European citizens. These impacts are currently forecast to increase.
Eight airlines grew their carbon emissions faster than Ryanair on flights within Europe last year. 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 retained its title of having the highest emissions on European routes in 2018, according to official EU data.
Transport & Environment (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. 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.”
What’s more, aviation regulators are consistently underestimating the extent of the emissions growth in their planning forecasts. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) anticipated a 3.3% increase in carbon emissions on flights within Europe last year, but official data shows they grew 4.9% – or 1.1 megatonnes of CO2 more than expected.
Rather than taxing and regulating aviation emissions, governments are pursuing a controversial UN offsetting scheme for aviation that will allow aviation emissions to continue growing. There are serious doubts over the environmental effectiveness of carbon offsets. Airlines can emit even more carbon by buying very cheap offsets – where they invest in environmental projects, such as a hydrodam project which later collapsed, instead of reducing their own carbon footprint.
Andrew Murphy said: “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.”