Flying Towards Climate Failure: An Analysis of the Seven Biggest European Airline Groups

Jun 02, 2022
  • Description

Globally, aviation is a major contributor to rising greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). In recent years, annual emissions from aviation have increased by 4-5%, up to the start of the COVID crisis in 2020. Although the pandemic has led to a temporary decline in aviation emissions, air travel is projected to return to its skyrocketing pre-pandemic levels as early as 2024. Without political action to counter its growth prospects, the aviation industry will become one of the biggest emitting sectors globally and by 2050 it will have consumed up to a quarter of the global carbon budget for achieving the 1.5°C Paris Agreement goal.

Under pressure for their skyrocketing emissions, some actors in the aviation sector have recently pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. But no company in the sector has pledged to effectively cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to achieve real-zero decarbonisation. Instead, the industry and political leaders are relying on excessive optimism about false or technological solutions, such as carbon offsetting, electric planes and alternative fuels that are either ineffective, harmful for the environment or a long way from being viable in the coming decades or easily available at the required volumes. Researchers have highlighted that these "technology myths" are stalling the necessary progress in climate policy for aviation. While other transport sectors, such as rail and road, can – to a certain extent – directly use electricity based on renewable sources such as solar and wind power, similar solutions do not yet exist for aviation. The goal of real-zero emissions will not be achieved without a significant reduction in flights.