Data analysed by Transport and Environment and Carbon Market Watch (CMW) reveals that three of the biggest recipients of airline bailouts – Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France – were the three biggest airline emitters in 2019.
The researchers as reported by airqualitynews found that Lufthansa was the most polluting airline, responsible for 19.11 Mt of CO2, this was then followed by British Airways who were responsible for 18.38Mt and Air France who were responsible for 14.39 Mt.
Polluting the Air
The data shows that these airlines do not pay for most of their contribution to polluting the air, with flights entering and exiting Europe currently exempt from the EU carbon market.
In the case of Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France, the airlines do not pay anything for 77%, 86% and 83% of their emissions, respectively.
The researchers also highlighted that these three airlines were the biggest recipients of airline bailouts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 and thus reduce polluting the air.
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.”
Gilles Dufrasne, policy officer at Carbon Market Watch, added that Corsia is simply a cheap excuse for the aviation sector to continue business as usual and reduce the levels of polluting the air.
“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,” he said.
US Airlines Emissions Up by 7%
Similarly, a new study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) on aviation fuel burn and associated greenhouse gas emissions has found that overall fuel burn and, therefore, CO2 emissions from US airlines increased by 7% from 2005 to 2019.
Further, the study found that low-cost carriers (LCCs) such as Spirit, Frontier, and Southwest have driven virtually all that airline emissions growth since 2005.
Key findings include:
- LCCs, while operating more fuel-efficient fleets, are growing much faster than fuel efficiency can offset emissions. Over the period studied, LCC traffic grew ~3.5x faster than fuel efficiency improved, increasing fuel use and CO2 by 64%.
- Pre-COVID, airlines were on track to break the US goal of capping aviation emissions at 2005 levels starting in 2020. The COVID-19 traffic downturn gives airlines five more years to achieve the US goal en-route to net-zero emissions.
- The fuel efficiency, and therefore carbon intensity, of flights can vary by a factor of three over the same stage length. This finding highlights the value of disclosing GHG emissions to consumers at the point of ticket purchase so that they can choose less emitting flights and carriers, the authors said.
The study comes as a wave of Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) file for initial public offerings, and as the Biden Administration considers how to incorporate aviation emissions into an economywide net-zero target for the US. LCCs, while fuel-efficient, are growing much faster than network carriers and have been slow to adopt net-zero targets for their operations, the authors said.