By Adam Vaughan
Several European airlines are engaged in extensive lobbying to challenge European Union climate policies, such as imminent plans to force them to use more green biofuels, a UK-based think tank has found.
InfluenceMap, a think tank that monitors corporate lobbying around climate change, utilized freedom of information requests and research to draw its brand new report. It reveals that while the 10 European airlines appeared in for this report have received approximately $30 billion in government bailouts throughout the pandemic — a few of which came with terms attached to promote climate-friendly actions — many have simultaneously lobbied to postpone new proposals to reduce aviation emissions.
Air France-KLM, IAG (the parent company of British Airways), Lufthansa and Ryanair — Europe’s four largest airlines by carbon dioxide emissions — have been found at the report to be the most regressive with their stance involving climate policies. InfluenceMap rated their standing roughly on a par with the airline bodies IATA and Airlines for Europe (A4E). The airline Easyjet was viewed as taking a slightly more progressive position.
Ben Youriev, the report’s author, says the motto of resistance throughout the sector is”startling” compared to most other sectors, such as energy, where there’s usually a more mixed picture.
IATA has labelled the report”a gross distortion of the aviation industry’s genuine and long-standing sustainability efforts”.
According to this report, among the most significant lobbying targets was repeated efforts by IATA and A4E to persuade the European Commission (EC) to handle emissions from international aviation from the mid-2020s through a global carbon offsetting scheme, CORSIA, rather than the EU’s own carbon market, the ETS.
The EC has previously concluded that in many respects CORSIA was”less ambitious than the regulation of aviation within the EU ETS”.
Lufthansa reacted to the report by stating that”[o]nly strong and competitive companies are in a position to invest in new technologies and further climate protection measures. In Germany, for example, airlines are burdened threefold by the aviation tax, the ETS and CORSIA, while airlines from Turkey, the Gulf states and Asia operate under completely different environmental and social standards.”
The report highlights additional forecasting compared EU-wide and national-level taxes on jet fuel, and a counter campaign against the flygskam (flight shame) movement. The study also shows the lobbying has yielded results. In ancient 2020, according to the new report, IATA called on the EC to work within the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to down water CORSIA due to the pandemic. This eventually came to pass in June 2020.
The InfluenceMap report also shows that airlines lobbied against EC plans to declare a mandate next month on their use of sustainable aviation gasoline (SAF), biofuels made from animal waste and drinking oil. The biofuels are viewed as a key short-term method to bring down aviation emissions but are now estimated at only 0. 05 percent of aviation gasoline use in the EU, and less internationally.
Emails obtained by InfluenceMap reveal AirFrance told EC officials in March that the mandate should only happen when”the SAF market is mature enough”, warning a mandate risked price spikes because of scarcity of the biofuel. Meanwhile, the further emails acquired by InfluenceMap through FOI requests show Lufthansa warned the EC in January and February that biofuels responsibility can undermine a”level playing field between European and non-European airlines”.
A4E said in a statement that the report fails to reflect the collective actions and investments made by European airlines to address climate change. “We are committed to accelerating our carbon emission reductions to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and have a roadmap that provides robust evidence on how we’re reducing our carbon footprint by 2030 and 2050,” A4E said.
“The aviation industry is mitigating its climate change impact with a global approach based on new technology, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), better infrastructure, more efficient operations and CORSIA,” IATA explained.
Other companies mentioned in the report had not reacted to New Scientist‘s request for comment at the time of publication.
The revelations come shortly after US airline United declared on 3 June that it was purchasing least 15 supersonic planes from plane guy