Three of the biggest recipients of airline bailouts – Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France – were the three biggest airline emitters in 2019, according to data analysed by Transport & Environment and Carbon Market Watch (CMW).
The researchers 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.
The data shows that these airlines do not pay for most of their pollution, 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.
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: ‘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.’
A spokesperson from British Airways commented on this research: ‘Our parent company IAG was the first airline group in the world to commit to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and while there is no single solution to this challenge we’ve built a clear roadmap to get us there.
‘We’ve invested in new aircraft which are up to 40% more fuel-efficient than those they replace, introduced carbon offset and removal projects, invested in the development of sustainable aviation fuel with two major projects in the UK and US, and have recently partnered with ZeroAvia to further the development of zero-emissions hydrogen-powered aircraft.’