New airline CO2 data: Lufthansa, BA, Air France were Europe’s most polluting airlines pre-Covid

Official data, obtained by Transport & Environment, and Carbon Market Watch, shows 3 of the biggest recipients of airline bailouts – Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France – were the 3 biggest European airline carbon emitters before Covid grounded flights. Those 3 airlines got a third or airline bailout money.  It is the first time ever that the total emissions of European airlines have been disclosed, including flights entering and leaving the EU – not only within it. This has exposed airlines which previously emitted most of their CO2 by long-haul flights.  Currently only the carbon emitted on intra-EU flights is included in the ETS (Emissions Trading System for the EU). The non-EU flights made up 77% of the emissions by Lufthansa; 86% for British Airways; and 83% for Air France.  In 2019 Lufthansa emitted 19.11 MtCO2 (bailout about €6,840 million); BA emitted 18.38 MtCO2 (€2,553 million); Air France emitted 14.39 MtCO2 (€7000 + ? €300 bailout); Ryanair 12.28 MtCO2 (€670 million bailout); EasyJet 4.84 MtCO2 (€2,240 bailout).  And many more airlines … Ryanair remains the No 1 emitter on flights within Europe.  There is no data for Alitalia, as the government would not send data. The UN’s ineffective and deeply flawed CORSIA scheme is meant to be a disincentive to airlines increasing their carbon emissions, but it will not have any significant impact. 



Lufthansa, BA, Air France were Europe’s most polluting airlines pre-Covid

Three of the biggest recipients of airline bailouts – Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France – were the three biggest European airline emitters before the pandemic grounded flights, official data shows.[1]  It is the first time ever that the total emissions of European airlines have been disclosed.

Transport & Environment (T&E) and Carbon Market Watch (CMW), which compiled the data after being granted access by governments, are releasing it on the first anniversary of the European Commission approving pandemic aid to the aviation sector.

By Eoin Bannon (Transport & Environment)

March 29, 2021

For the first time, T&E and CMW (Carbon Market Watch) obtained data for pollution on flights entering and exiting Europe, allowing airlines’ total emissions to be compiled. This has exposed airlines which previously have done much of their polluting on long-haul flights.

Andrew Murphy, aviation director at T&E, said: “A third of the airline bailout is going to the three most polluting carriers. Having spent the past 12 months pouring aid into these airlines, governments must switch course and focus on greening the sector. Airlines should be required to pay for emissions on all their flights, and to start using cleaner fuels.”

The data shows that airlines do not pay for most of their pollution as flights entering and exiting Europe are currently exempt from the EU carbon market. In the case of Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France, the airlines do not pay a cent for 77%, 86% and 83% of their emissions, respectively. In June the EU Commission will say whether flights entering and exiting Europe should be brought under the EU emissions trading system (ETS). It will also propose a law requiring airlines to start using cleaner fuels such as e-kerosene.

In 2008 the EU tried to add long-haul aviation to its ETS, but industry pressure resulted in flights between EU and non-EU countries being excluded to “create space” for a UN airline CO2 deal. An EU study published last week found that the UN scheme, known as Corsia, could actually undermine Europe’s climate efforts and is “unlikely to materially alter” the climate impact of air travel.

Gilles Dufrasne, policy officer at Carbon Market Watch, said: “Corsia is simply a cheap excuse for the aviation sector to continue business as usual. The EU should not stand for it, and must resist industry pressure calling for the dismantling of the EU ETS. We must end the exemptions which airlines currently benefit from, including the free distribution of pollution permits. Replacing existing policies with Corsia would have the exact opposite effect.”

As the Italian government failed to provide data, despite repeated requests, Alitalia’s total emissions remain unknown.

Note to editors:

[1] This is the first time international CO2 emissions of major European airlines – from extra-European and intra-European flights – have been compiled. T&E was granted access to the international emissions data by a number of EEA governments, however Italy and Romania failed to provide data. Ryanair remains the No 1 emitter on flights within Europe

Read more:

Briefing: One year of airline bailouts – what have we learned?


British Airways named second biggest air polluter

By Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent (The Times)

Monday March 29 2021

Ministers have been urged to radically cut greenhouse gas emissions from airlines after research showed British Airways alone accounted for as much carbon dioxide as all vans on UK roads.

A study named BA as the second biggest airline polluter in Europe in 2019 before the pandemic grounded thousands of flights. BA’s flights emitted 18.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), which was second only to the German flag carrier Lufthansa.

Transport and Environment, the campaign group in Brussels which carried out the study, said that emissions levels were close to the total from every van driven in Britain the previous year — 19.4 million tonnes.

BA insisted last night that the conclusions were out of date and that it was introducing new aircraft which were about 40 per cent more fuel-efficient. Since 2019 it has retired all 31 of its Boeing 747 aircraft which have been criticised for high pollution levels, it said.

Researchers said the figures underlined the scale of the aviation industry’s “emissions addiction” and were critical that emissions from international aviation did not count towards the UK’s pledge to reach net-zero by 2050.

The Climate Change Committee, the government’s climate advisers, has said emissions from international aviation and shipping should be included within targets from 2033 onwards.

Matt Finch, the group’s UK policy manager, said: “The UK’s aviation industry has an emissions addiction . . . we need a coherent plan to ensure that aviation does not derail the UK’s commitment to meeting its climate goals.”

The study found Lufthansa created 19.1 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019. Air France was third with 14.4 million and easyJet was seventh with 4.8 million.