Ryanair has become the first non-coal producing company to enter Europe’s top 10 carbon emitters.
New EU figures reveal that the airline has officially entered a league which, until now, had been exclusively occupied by coal plants.
The 9.9 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions the airline declared last year is up 6.9% on the year before.
The company’s declared emissions are up nearly 50% from the 6.6 megatonnes declared five years ago.
"The new coal"
The European Federation for Transport and the Environment (T&E) has warned that the figures highlight Europe’s failure to put in place effective measures to rein in the “runaway emissions growth” of the aviation industry.
“When it comes to climate, Ryanair is the new coal,” said the organisation’s aviation manager Andrew Murphy.
“This trend will only continue until Europe realises that this under-taxed and under-regulated sector needs to be brought into line – starting with a tax on kerosene and the introduction of mandates that force airlines to switch to zero-emission jet fuel.”
T&E said it is “no surprise” that aviation has the fastest growing level of CO2 emissions of any form transport – as it is still the most under-taxed.
The organisation said airlines should not be offered free emissions allowances in the EU trading system and should be forced to start paying tax on kerosene.
It also called for airlines to be subject to VAT on tickets, like other transport sectors.
It said airlines must shift to synthetic kerosene, produced from renewable electricity and carbon captured from the air, if they are to radically cut emissions.
T&E said airlines are offsetting their emissions through the UN scheme Corsia – which allows them to emit ever-more carbon by buying “ultra-cheap offsets.”
It said the offsets encourage airlines to invest in environmental projects that have varying levels of effectiveness – instead of reducing their own carbon footprints.
“Aviation is Europe's biggest climate failure,” said Mr Murphy.
“The worst thing we can do in response is to put all our hopes in an offsetting scheme that gives airlines a license to grow indefinitely.
“But that is exactly what airlines have cooked up at the industry-dominated UN aviation agency.
“The time has come for a big change in Europe’s aviation policy.”
"Greenest and cleanest"
In a statement, Ryanair said it is “Europe’s greenest & cleanest airline.”
“Passengers travelling on Ryanair have the lowest CO2 emissions per km travelled than any other airline.”
It said it offers lower emissions – per passenger, per KM – by operating the youngest fleet in Europe with high-load factors and efficient fuel burn.