Greenpeace, Transport & Environment and Carbon Market Watch release aviation bailout tracker

Amsterdam, April 22nd — The European airline industry is demanding government aid totalling at minimum €12.8 bn and counting, with no meaningful binding environmental commitments attached to bailout plans or part of the ongoing negotiations according to data compiled in a new airline bailout tracker published today by Greenpeace, Transport & Environment and Carbon Market Watch.

The tracker provides a comprehensive list of airline requests for public funding and the state of bailout negotiations. The aviation sector has been one of the fastest-growing contributors to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) at every level (global, regional and local) over the last two decades, with a 26% increase in emissions in Europe over the past five years. Any bailout measures should require airlines to comply with the 1,5-degree climate goal as internationally agreed upon in the Paris climate agreement and to achieve this, Greenpeace demands a total ban on short-haul flight connections where travel time by train is less than 6 hours or a night train is available. 

While the amount of money being mobilized to save airlines is staggering, most come with no strings attached. Greenpeace also demands that any government bailout go directly to protecting workers’ wages, health, and livelihoods as well as a strict ban on cash flows to shareholders such as dividend and on share buybacks. Additional public funding should lay the foundation for a just and green transition with plans for widespread investment in sustainable mobility alternatives — like a European-wide network of better day and night trains, ferries, and accessible public transport.

“We need a bailout package that creates a just and green economy. One that makes communities more resilient by creating sustainable jobs while rapidly moving us away from fossil fuels, skyrocketing CO2 emissions, and rising temperatures,” said Faiza Oulahsen, Greenpeace EU spokesperson.  This is a crucial opportunity to address both the economic impacts of the COVID crisis and the crisis we face in climate change.”

While many executives and shareholders have racked up profits for years, the aviation sector has depended extensively on public funds — from state aid for airports, low-cost airlines and infrastructure linking airports with nearby cities, to benefits from tax exemptions, such as VAT and kerosene tax that other more sustainable transportation methods — such as rail — have not. The 20 largest airlines (based in the European Economic Area and the UK) have earned a combined total of at least €33 billion in net profits over the past five years while paying almost no fuel taxes and VAT on only domestic flights in some member states. “It’s time governments stopped throwing money at one of the biggest polluters without expecting anything in return. Airlines benefit from massive tax breaks and free pollution permits under the EU’s carbon market. This has allowed them to generate large profits, and now they are asking taxpayers to shoulder the losses. The pollution from flying is likely to rebound fast once the pandemic is over, and the aviation industry must start paying for the climate damage it causes,” said Carbon Market Watch policy officer Gilles Dufrasne.

Full list of aviation bailout demands here.