SPAIN’s principal airline did not pay a single cent for 83% of its CO2 emissions within the EU in 2019, according to data released on Monday.

The study, conducted by environmental organisations Transport & Environment and Carbon Market Watch, was the first to cover airline emissions in the whole of the EU and not just in the European Economic Area (EEA). 

Significantly, it found that 70% of all the CO2 released by airlines within the EU were not subject to regulation and therefore went untaxed.

“After a whole year wasting aid on airline bailouts, governments must consider a change of course and focus on making the sector more environmentally friendly,” said Andrew Murphy, Aviation Director at T&A, referring to the airline bailouts resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Airlines should be forced to pay for emissions from all their flights, and required to use cleaner fuels.”

Under the current EU framework, airlines only pay for the greenhouse gas emissions of flights that take place within the EEA.

Although the EU proposed to include long-haul flights in this scheme in 2008, the airlines lobbied against this successfully, meaning flights between EU and non-EU countries are exempt from regulation.

Pablo Muñoz, coordinator of the Ecologistas en Accion aviation campaign, said that ‘the EU must show much greater ambition in its policies to decarbonise the aviation sector’ and suggested that it establish a ‘kerosene tax, cancel all financing for the increase of airport infrastructures and promote the use of advanced biofuels with strict sustainability criteria’.

In total, airlines emitted 65.9 metric tonnes of CO2 within the EU in 2019, the last ‘pre-Covid’ year.

The biggest polluters were Lufthansa (19.11 mtCO2), British Airways (18.38 mtC02) and Air France (14.39 mtCO2), with Iberia (5.66 mtCO2) ranking fifth.

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