Fears new EU rules could ‘greenwash’ airlines

New sustainable investment rules being considered by the EU could ‘greenwash’ more than 7,000 Airbus aircraft, according to campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E).  

The European Commission is debating how aviation can be included in its taxonomy and under 2022 draft criteria, aircraft can qualify as ‘best in class’ if they are more efficient than older models.

This means over 90% of Airbus’ future orders could qualify for investment, despite still heavily relying on fossil fuels. Airlines which are only replacing and not expanding its fleet are also set to meet the EU criteria.

Efficiency measures only cut greenhouse gases by around 15-20% and have not stopped CO2 emissions from growing over the decades – emissions increased by 19% between 1990 and 2017 despites fuel efficiency improving by 18%.

Jo Dardenne, aviation director at T&E, said: ‘Sticking a green investment label on thousands of highly polluting planes is an act of pure greenwashing. The European Commission must reverse course. Unsurprisingly, Airbus is lobbying relentlessly to ensure aviation stays in the taxonomy. But this would be a mere smokescreen that allows them to sell dirty planes for years to come. Instead, they should focus efforts and investments in zero-emission aircraft that are truly green.’

T&E used to be part of the advisory body Platform for Sustainable Finance which is working on developing the taxonomy, but left last year due to a lack of independence and disagreements on how to progress.

The new rules will leave the majority of Europe’s airlines incompatible with the ‘best in class’ taxonomy criteria, but many are planning to buy new fleets to resolve this.

Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air are thought to be buying new, more efficient aircraft, meaning 58% of easyJet’s fleet could be taxonomy compliant despite operating on fossil fuels.

T&E says this will encourage greenwashing within the airline sector, as companies see their fleets endorsed as green by the EU.

The organisation says the criteria must be amended to ensure only new technologies which have potential to release no emissions or planes which run off high quality sustainable fuels are compatible with the taxonomy.

In the UK, the government has announced more than £110m to be invested into green aviation innovations

 Photo by Antoine Schibler


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