Airline joins list of Europe’s top carbon emitters

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It is an inglorious list that has traditionally been dominated by coal companies, but Ryanair has now entered the ranks of Europe’s top ten biggest carbon polluters.

That’s according to the latest EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) registry, which ranks Ryanair as the tenth largest CO2 emitter in Europe. The other nine in the list are all coal-fired power plants.

The Irish airline is Europe’s largest having carried 139.2 million passengers in 2018. In the same year it is reported to have produced 9.9 megatonnes of greenhouse gases – a 6.9 per cent increase on 2017 figures.

“When it comes to climate, Ryanair is the new coal,” said Andrew Murphy, aviation manager at European Federation for Transport & Environment (T&E).

But it’s not just Ryanair. The EU claims emissions for aviation industry as a whole increased by 4.9 per cent in Europe last year. By way of contrast, other emissions-trading sectors in the bloc showed an overall decline of 3.9 per cent.

Michael O’Leary has described climate change as “complete and utter rubbish”

Credit:
AFP

Ryanair, whose chief executive, Michael O’Leary, has described climate change as “complete and utter rubbish”, responded to the figures by claiming its young fleet of aircraft made it one of the Continent’s greenest airlines.   

“Passengers travelling on Ryanair have the lowest CO2 emissions per km travelled than any other airline,” said the airline in a statement.

T&E claims it is “no surprise that the most undertaxed mode of transport is also the one with the fastest growing CO2 emissions”. The organisation was referring to the fact that airlines do not typically pay excise duty on fuel or VAT on ticket sales.

The UK Government has claimed that without a global agreement on taxing fuel, moves to impose duty on international flights, either at a domestic or European level, would likely encourage what’s known as “tankering”: carriers filling up aircraft as full as possible whenever they landed outside the EU to avoid paying taxes. This, it is claimed, would increase emissions.

Aviation is deemed responsible for 3.6 per cent of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions – more than double what it was in 1990. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the industry’s CO2 emissions are likely to grow by 300-700 per cent by 2050.

Under a controversial carbon offsetting scheme known as Corsia, airlines can continue pumping out CO2 if they offset emissions by investing in environmental projects. Critics question the effectiveness of such offset schemes.

“The worst thing we can do in response is to put all our hopes in an offsetting scheme that gives airlines a license to grow indefinitely,” said Murphy. “But that is exactly what airlines have cooked up at the industry-dominated UN aviation agency. The time has come for a big change in Europe’s aviation policy.”



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