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  • Ryanair Europe’s 7th biggest carbon polluter last year as aviation emissions continued to grow

    Ryanair again joined coal plants as one of Europe’s top 10 carbon emitters last year as airlines polluted record amounts in 2019.[1] The low-cost carrier increased its emissions 5.9% on flights within Europe last year, according to data from the EU emissions trading system published yesterday. Transport & Environment (T&E) said governments should support aviation workers through the current crisis but that airline emissions would quickly rebound unless bailouts were conditional on carriers taking up green technologies and starting to pay tax once conditions improve.

    Easyjet, which this month secured a £600 million emergency loan from the UK government, emitted 4.1% more CO2 in 2019. The bailed-out airline also asked staff to take two months unpaid leave – just weeks after paying out £160 million in shareholder dividend.

    Andrew Murphy, aviation manager at T&E, said: “Airline emissions continued their upward trajectory while other sectors continued to decarbonise. That trend will resume post-crisis unless governments act now to rein in their pollution.”

    Airlines’ carbon emissions grew 1.5% overall within Europe last year – in contrast to the other emissions-trading sectors (power and large industry) in the EU, which declined 8.9% overall. Carbon pollution from flying within Europe has risen 27.6% since 2013, far outpacing any other transport mode.

    While airlines’ emissions will fall this year due to COVID groundings, they are expected to bounce back unless airlines are required to start paying taxes and use cleaner fuels once conditions improve. Passenger numbers have repeatedly broken records in the aftermath of global shocks such as the 2008 financial crisis, industry data [2] shows.

    In Europe political momentum has been gathering to end both airlines’ tax exemption and the free pollution permits they receive in the bloc’s emissions trading system. The European Commission said earlier this month that it was exploring requiring airlines to start using cleaner fuels such as synthetic e-fuels.

    Andrew Murphy concluded: “Governments should move to protect airline jobs but also to kickstart the just transition for aviation. Taxpayers’ money must only be used if these big polluters commit to the EU Green Deal, including starting to pay tax and taking up greener fuels.”

    Europe is moving to curb airline emissions due to serious doubts over a controversial UN offsetting scheme for aviation. Known as Corsia, the scheme will allow airlines to continue growing their emissions by buying ultra-cheap offsets – where they invest in environmental projects, such as a hydrodam project which later collapsed, instead of reducing their own carbon footprint.

    Notes to editors:

    [1] For full methodology of T&E’s analysis of emissions data, see:

    [2] Boeing analysis of passenger numbers from UN aviation agency ICAO and airlines’ trade association IATA.

    Boeing, Commercial Market Outlook 2019–2038, page 19: