ASA rule against Ryanair ad (greenwash) claim to have the lowest airline CO2 emissions
Date added: February 5, 2020
Ryanair has been accused of greenwashing after the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned an ad campaign, that tried to make out the airline has the lowest CO2 emissions of any major airline in Europe. It has been ordered to withdraw the misleading claims about its “green” credentials. Ryanair is in fact one of the top 10 carbon emitters in the EU, due to the number of flights. Ryanair probably has lower CO2 per passenger kilometre than many other airlines, as it has newer planes, and crams its planes full. But its rapid growth has meant its CO2 increased by 50% between 2013 and 2019. The ASA pointed out failings in the way Ryanair compared itself to other airlines, to make its carbon claims; it did not include all airlines or seating density; it did not substantiate its claims. The growth of Ryanair, and of air travel in general, in Europe has been due to the sector paying no jet fuel tax, making flying artificially cheap. The CO2 emissions of all flights departing from EU airports have grown from being 1.4% of total EU emissions in 1990 to 3.7% today.
Reaction to the UK Advertising Standards Authority’s ruling on Ryanair
The biggest aviation emitter in Europe, Ryanair, has been sanctioned today by the UK Advertising Standards Authority for misleading claims that it’s a green airline. The low-cost operator mislead consumers in press, TV and radio ads by claiming to be “low CO2” and “Europe’s… lowest emissions airline”, the ads watchdog ruled. Green campaign and research group Transport & Environment (T&E) said the ruling dispels Ryanair’s green myths and shows the need for lawmakers to finally do something about airline emissions.
Ryanair has been ordered to withdraw the misleading claims about its “green” credentials. The airline’s CO2 emissions increased by half in five years,  putting it on the EU’s list of top 10 emitters. Yet, despite airlines’ soaring pollution, the sector pays no tax on its fuel and has no obligation to start using newer, cleaner fuels like synthetic kerosene.
T&E’s aviation manager, Jo Dardenne, said: “Ryanair should stop greenwashing and start doing something to tackle its sky-high emissions. This ruling is a reminder that the aviation sector’s climate impact is soaring because of a decades-long tax holiday and almost zero regulation of their pollution. European governments must without delay agree bilaterally to tax jet fuel until EU Vice-President Timmermans secures the end of the tax exemption.”
The emissions of all flights departing from EU airports have grown from 1.4% of total EU emissions in 1990 to 3.7% today. If unmitigated, aviation emissions are expected to double or triple by 2050 and, in doing so, consume up to one-quarter of the global carbon budget under a 1.5 degree scenario.
 In 2017 Ryanair was the 12th largest emitter in the EU emissions trading system (ETS), and in 2016 it was 17th. Its emissions have been growing steadily, while at the same time emissions from other sectors covered by the ETS have been declining. In 2013, Ryanair’s emissions were 6.6 Mt CO2. Last year, they soared to 9.9 Mt CO2, representing an increase of 49%.
The ads claim that Ryanair has the “lowest carbon emissions of any major airline”, based on CO2 emissions per passenger per kilometre flown, because it has the youngest fleet, highest proportion of seats filled on flights and newest, most fuel-efficient engines.
However, one of the charts Ryanair presented to the Advertising Standards Authority to back up its claims was dated 2011, which the watchdog said was “of little value as substantiation for a comparison made in 2019”. The ASA added: “In addition, some well-known airlines did not appear on the chart, so it was not clear whether they had been measured.”
The ASA also said that the ads failed to factor in seating density – the number of seats per plane – which it considered “significant information that consumers needed in order to understand the basis of the claim”.
The ASA banned the ads ruling that they were misleading because the airline had failed to substantiate its environmental claims.
“The ads must not appear again in their current forms,” the ASA said. “We told Ryanair to ensure that when making environmental claims they held adequate evidence to substantiate them and to ensure that the basis of those claims were made clear.”
The environmental group Transport & Environment accused Ryanair of greenwashing instead of tackling its emissions.
The airline ran the low-emissions ad campaign just over five months after it became the first non-coal company to be named in the EU top 10 carbon emitters list.
“Ryanair should stop greenwashing and start doing something to tackle its sky-high emissions,” said Jo Dardenne, the aviation manager of T&E.
Ryanair remained defiant, claiming it had abided by the UK advertising code.
“Ryanair is both disappointed and surprised that the ASA has issued this ruling given that Ryanair fully complied with advertising regulations, engaging with regulators and providing documentation that fulfilled all the substantiations needed,” said a spokeswoman.
The Ryanair boss, Michael O’Leary, has suggested shooting environmentalists and has repeatedly denied that the climate crisis is driven by carbon emissions, which aviation produces in abundance.
Complaint submitted to Advertising Standards Authority about misleading Ryanair emissions advert
September 16, 2019
A complaint has been made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about an advert Ryanair has placed in newspapers saying it is “Europe’s lowest fares, lowest emissions airline” on the grounds that it is systematically misleading about the airline’s carbon emissions. While that may be true in terms of carbon emissions per seat kilometre flown, it is certainly NOT true for the airline as a whole. Ryanair is in fact now the 10th largest carbon emitter in Europe, on an assessment of power stations, manufacturing plants and airlines. Its emissions were around 10 million tonnes CO2 in 2018, up 6.9% on 2017. The complainant says the “unqualified statements” in the advert combine to make the advert “comprehensively misleading as to the impact of both past and future expansion of low-cost air travel on carbon emissions, an expansion which was, and is still, being led by Ryanair.”