Airlines call for an end to loopholes in carbon market and back European climate measures
Four airlines – easyJet, Ryanair, Jet2 and Wizz Air – together with clean mobility group T&E are calling for equal rules to apply to all flights departing from European airports, regardless of their destination, in order for European measures to effectively decarbonise the aviation industry by 2050.
As part of its Fit for 55 package, the European Commission is proposing to reform the Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) rules for aviation, but the draft fails to address the bulk of aviation emissions – over 60% of emissions – which take place on extra-EU flights. Departing long-haul flights alone represent just 6% of all flights, but generate 51% of the emissions from European aviation.
In order for the aviation industry to decarbonise by 2050, T&E and the four airlines say it is vital that this effort is shared equally among all actors. No exemptions should be granted, especially not to airlines operating transfer and long haul flights, as some long-haul airlines and associated hub airports have asked for. Their requests to have ETS and sustainable fuel costs subsidised for long-haul flights are unreasonable and unjustified.
All flights to non-EEA destinations should be included in the EU ETS. As it stands, intra-EU carriers have 80-90% of their emissions covered by the ETS, whereas long-haul carriers only purchase credits for around 19% of their – much greater – emissions.
Some airlines claim that ambitious climate regulations risk being avoided by parts of the industry and therefore leading to carbon leakage. Carbon leakage happens when airlines avoid paying the extra costs of clean fuel or ETS allowances by displacing their emissions to other regions. Studies have shown that some of these claims are unfounded and that there is no reason for the EU not to impose its climate measures on all departing flights from its territory.
William Todts, Executive Director at T&E, said: “It’s absurd that people flying to Madrid or Budapest have to pay carbon taxes but far more polluting trips to New York or Singapore are exempt. Long distance flights generate the largest chunk of aviation emissions and contrails. It’s about time the EU puts an end to this anomaly and starts addressing all of aviation’s emissions in its carbon market.”
Michael O’Leary, Group CEO of Ryanair said: “While all airlines claim to be committed to decarbonisation, actions speak louder than words. It is crucial that legislative proposals, such as the Fit for 55 package, apply equally to all flights, regardless of destination or distance. There is no justification to exempt any flights, especially the most polluting indirect ones which require at least 2 flights to reach their destination, and/or connect onto long-haul flights, which account for just 6% of Europe’s air passengers but over 51% of EU air travel CO2 emissions.”
Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, said: “Aviation needs to do more to tackle climate change, which is why we are championing zero emission technology. But this means that the whole industry has to play its part, this includes long haul airlines which is why we cannot allow exemptions to new EU regulations.”
József Váradi, Wizz Air’s Group CEO said: “Wizz Air urges all airlines to play their part in decarbonising the aviation industry. The Fit for 55 policy provides an opportunity for aviation to tackle climate change – but to be effective, the measures must apply to all departing flights, regardless of the final destination. We should not get sucked into unfounded carbon leakage claims made by the big European legacy carriers. If they had their way, their inefficient, hub and spoke long-haul operations would be exempt from the policy. Carbon does not stop at the EU border.”
 Eurocontrol Data Snapshot February 2021: https://www.eurocontrol.int/publication/eurocontrol-data-snapshot-co2-emissions-flight-distance