International flights taking off from the UK must be taken into account in the government’s calculations on reaching net zero emissions as part of a “green” recovery for the airline industry, a transport thinktank has urged.
The government has given loan bailouts to airlines totalling £1.8bn since the coronavirus outbreak, with no environmental conditions attached. (See link )
Ryanair is the latest company to secure a £600m loan from the scheme, despite its chief executive, Michael O’Leary’s outspoken condemnation of such bailouts across Europe as uncompetitive state aid. British Airways secured a £300m loan and EasyJet received £600m.
The thinktank Transport and Environment calculates that more than £30bn has been promised or given in bailouts to airlines across Europe due to Covid-19, and it said the recovery of the industry must be sustainable and tied to policies to cut carbon emissions.
Among these, it said international aviation emissions must be included in the government targets to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050.
The Committee on Climate Change has recommended (September 2019) that emissions from international flights should be included in net zero calculations – at present they are not counted at all – but the government has yet to respond to the committee’s letter.
“The government should ensure international aviation and shipping emissions are including within the net zero target,” said Greg Archer, the UK director of Transport and Environment. “The aviation industry is currently relying on buying cheap, unreliable offsets for its emissions. This is no solution to avoiding a climate catastrophe.”
He said the recovery of the industry had to have conditions attached, including new aviation taxes to manage growth, a moratorium on new runways and terminals and a mandate on airlines to buy sustainable aviation fuels.
“The tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic provides an opportunity to reset the aviation industry’s insatiable demand for fossil fuels and to place it on a sustainable future pathway,” Archer said.
“Rather than a return to business as usual, aviation must now ‘build back better’ and initiate a green recovery. Aviation bailouts must be exclusively focused on ensuring a green recovery and supporting employees.”
UK aviation emissions are estimated to be 13-15% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions. These include from international flights departing from the UK, and non-CO2 emissions associated with these flights. By 2050, if demand is unchecked, passenger numbers are predicted to rise by 70% and aviation will become the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
International aviation emissions could be calculated by including emissions of planes that take off from the UK. Archer said the UK could be a global leader and take responsibility for its share of international aviation emissions.
“It is now clear the coronavirus pandemic is transforming the way we travel,” he said. “The pandemic similarly creates an opportunity for a reset in aviation and there should not be a return to business as usual but to create a recovery towards sustainable aviation.”