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Flights of Fancy: Preventing European airlines from making far-fetched climate claims

A study commissioned by Carbon Market Watch and conducted by the Öko-Institut analysed the action or investments that eight major European airlines were taking outside their value chains. These include activities that supposedly avoid or reduce greenhouse gas emissions and those that remove and store greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The eight selected airlines are some of the largest in Europe and were collectively responsible for over half of the total CO2 emissions of the EU aviation sector in 2019. The study provides a broad assessment of the scale and the quality of these airlines’ efforts.

This study clearly underscores that voluntary climate action is not working in the aviation sector. If we are to bring emissions from the aviation sector down to sustainable levels, then governments must step in and put binding regulations in place. Carbon Market Watch makes the following recommendations to EU governments and policymakers:

  • Polluters pay: As the EU institutions embark on the so-called trilogue to find common ground for a final deal on the revision of the EU Emissions Trading System for aviation, they should seize this opportunity to end the reliance on airlines’ voluntary actions to mitigate the negative impacts of their emissions, by expanding the EU ETS scope to cover all flights departing and arriving in the EEA, leaving fewer uncovered emissions.
  • Clear skies: The EU should require clear and complete disclosure of information from airlines regarding their purchase of carbon credits, as well as any other voluntary actions they take. This can be achieved through the EU corporate sustainability reporting standards being developed by the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG).
  • End misleading advertising: The EU should also ban misleading advertisements, such as carbon neutral flights, through its review of the Unfair Commercial Practices directive.
  • Coming in to land: Guidance on how to make informative, rather than misleading, claims should be provided by EU regulatory bodies, for example through the Europan Commission’s Green Claim initiative.

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