30 april 2020

4C Note: on the subject of this article, see also "Transport secretary promised EasyJet not to levy green taxes", The Guardian", April 30, 2020

Link climate pledges to €26bn airline bailout, say Europe's greens

Environment groups insist conditions must be attached to Covid-19 rescue plan for sector

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels, The Guardian

Thu 30 Apr 2020

Airlines are seeking €26bn (£22.7bn) in state aid to deal with the economic fallout from coronavirus, according to environmental campaigners, who accuse governments of failing to attach binding climate conditions to negotiations.

Air France, which has obtained €7bn in loans and loan guarantees from the French government, and Lufthansa, currently negotiating a €9bn rescue package with Berlin, top the charts in the airline bailout tracker compiled by Carbon Market Watch, Greenpeace, and Transport & Environment.

European governments have formally agreed €11.5bn in financial aid for airlines , including a £600m loan from the UK Treasury and Bank of England for EasyJet. A further €14.6bn is under discussion, including £500m Richard Branson is seeking from the British government to aid Virgin Atlantic.

The industry is grappling with a massive fall in demand: air travel is at a near standstill, with no end in sight, owing to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Some governments are seeking to attach strings to rescue plans. France’s minister for ecological transition, Élisabeth Borne, insisted Air France was not getting “a blank cheque”. The government has set “ecological commitments”, she said, including a 50% reduction in carbon emissions on domestic flights by 2024, as well as investing in more fuel-efficient planes.

Austria’s prime minister, Sebastian Kurz, announced his government would not help Lufthansa’s Austrian Airways operation without getting something in return, such as securing jobs in his country; while the vice-chancellor, Werner Kogler, has said he would “assume” a rescue would only happen with green conditions.

Campaigners claim none of the green strings agreed so far are binding, also pointing out that France has not set conditions on Air France’s non-domestic flights, which account for the majority of its emissions. “France’s green requests are a first but we had non-binding commitments for years and airline pollution ballooned,” said Andrew Murphy at Transport & Environment. “Marginally more efficient planes won’t put a dent in emissions if airlines still burn fossil fuels that they buy tax-free.”


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