Airlines and European Climate Policy

An InfluenceMap report

July 2022

See coverage in Bloomberg, BusinessGreen, Business Traveller, ESG Investor, Het Financieele Dagblad and Politico Pro

The report analyzes the climate policy engagement from the aviation sector in Europe since June 2021, updating InfluenceMap's 2021 aviation study. It finds a growing divide between European airlines and their climate lobbying, with legacy airlines Air France-KLM, International Airlines Group (whose airlines include British Airways and Iberia) and Lufthansa appearing to lead negative lobbying efforts, compared with low-cost airlines - easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air - increasingly supportive of applying climate policy to all international flights in the EU.

The analysis identifies improvement in the climate lobbying positions of some airlines in Europe in 2021-22, but highlights the ongoing gap between the industry's top-line support for net-zero emissions and largely negative positioning towards near-term policies designed to achieve that goal. As a sector, aviation remains one of the most negative in Europe when it comes to climate policy engagement, and remains a powerful opponent of climate regulation.

The report highlights the threat to EU climate targets if regulations are weakened by negative aviation industry climate policy engagement and is released prior to key EU decisions on climate policies proposed under the EU's 'Fit for 55 package' during the summer of 2022.

▪ The research covers the largest European airlines actively lobbying in the EU, their two key industry associations (Airlines for Europe (A4E) and International Air Transport Association (IATA)), and the two largest aircraft manufacturers Airbus & Boeing. It involved the collection and analysis of over 350 items of climate policy engagement evidence since June 2021. This includes previously unseen information, accessed from over 10 freedom of information requests (FOIs) in the UK and EU by InfluenceMap.

▪ Negative engagement appears to be led (with climate policy engagement scores on an A to F scale) by legacy airlines (Air France-KLM (D), International Airlines Group (IAG) (D), and Lufthansa (D-)) and the industry associations Airlines for Europe (A4E) (D) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) (D-). For example, legacy airlines and IATA appeared to oppose an extension of the EU ETS to all international flights, while A4E appears to have led advocacy to push for additional EU ETS allowances based on the amount of SAF used by airlines.

▪ In contrast, low-cost airlines easyJet (C+), Wizz Air (C-), and Ryanair (D+) appear to have developed increasingly positive stances on several policies since June 2021, advocating for the inclusion of extra-EEA flights (EEA to/from non-EEA) in the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) and EU SAF mandate.

▪ Despite this, new documents, uncovered by FOI requests, reveal opposition from easyJet, IAG, IATA, Ryanair, Virgin Atlantic, Wizz Air, and American Airlines to the UK's Air Passenger Duty in June 2021 consultation responses, while Ryanair, American Airlines, and IAG appeared to oppose a frequent flyer levy.

▪ The aviation sector is found to enjoy a high level of political access in Europe, with 43 meetings between the aviation industry and key climate-focused Members of the European Parliament in the run-up to crucial May/June 2022 EU parliamentary votes.

▪ The study also details the PR strategies employed by airlines to give the impression the sector is engaged in positive climate action and deflect responsibility for addressing emissions towards consumers. It also reveals multiple, significant gaps between the aviation industry's strategic communications and the conclusions from the IPCC's 2022 Working Group III report, particularly on international climate policy, the need for demand management policies, and a modal shift from aviation to rail.

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