Aviation in the EU climate plan: warning of “dangerous imbalance”

Status: 4/4/2022 5:33 pm

Air traffic and CO2 emissions would only be displaced by the EU’s “Fit for 55” climate plan, Frankfurt and Munich airports, as well as Lufthansa, warn. Together they now demanded changes in plans.

By Michael Immel, ARD Aviation Expert

You yourself speak of a “wake-up message”. This is the future of aviation. The focus of criticism: the “Fit for 55” climate protection plan. The EU Commission wants to cut climate-damaging emissions by 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990. But the German aviation industry is critical of earlier plans.

miguel immel

That’s why Lufthansa and Germany’s two main aviation hubs, Frankfurt and Munich, are now teaming up, a trio that isn’t every day. But the joint appearance also reveals that the aviation industry has a new key issue. So far, his arguments have not reached everyone in the political talks in Berlin and especially in Brussels. Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr warns of a “dangerous imbalance” for airlines and European network hubs.

“Fit for 55”

With “Fit for 55”, the EU Commission wants to reduce emissions by 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990. The EU climate plan has three elements in aviation. It is planned

1. Stricter emissions trading for intra-European flights, in which free certificates will no longer be issued from 2027.

2. Airlines are also required to add certain amounts of biofuel to kerosene on all flights leaving Europe. So-called SAF (“Sustainable Aviation Fuels”) are sustainably produced aviation fuels. In 2025, two percent, and by 2050 63 percent, should be mandatory.

3. In addition, a tax on kerosene for flights within Europe is being considered.

relocation warning

An “emissions relocation” has been mapped out, Spohr complains. “It cannot be in the interest of Europe and the EU to put European aviation at a disadvantage and weaken it in international competition with ‘Fit 55’. With the measures now planned, CO2 emissions from air traffic would change and not be reduced, Spohr said. Europe would become more dependent on third countries in terms of transport policy. “That may not be politically desirable,” says Spohr.

“We are in absolute agreement in the industry,” says Fraport boss Stefan Schulte. “We need more effort and speed on climate protection. It’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘how’ an ambitious climate policy,” he says. “But we want to avoid the risk of carbon leakage and distortions of competition – in other words, we want to take effective action to protect the climate and maintain connectivity and jobs in Europe.”

For industry, “carbon leakage” is the CO2 leakage in the climate package. Because if “Fit 55” were implemented without changes, some of the emissions would not be avoided, but simply outsourced. Because for air travel to Asia and Africa it would be enough to plan a change outside the EU, that is, in Istanbul or in Doha. In this way, passengers could easily avoid the additional costs of European climate taxes. “If Europe flies soon for cost reasons, that won’t save an ounce of CO2,” warns Lufthansa boss Spohr.

The industry calls for “competitive neutrality”

Therefore, the airline-airport alliance is pushing for “competitive neutrality”. European airlines should not be worse off than their competitors. However, if the “Fit for 55” program were implemented as planned, the consequences would be far-reaching. The industry assumes that by 2035 nearly 120 million passengers will no longer transfer to European hubs. That, too, will put jobs at risk: According to Schulte, as many as 260,000 jobs are at stake across the industry.

Munich Airport Director Jost Lammers assumes that “Fit for 55” in its current form at the southern German hub will mean “we lose 25 percent of long-haul routes.” Lammers is sure: “A tax on kerosene as a levy by itself does not save a single gram of CO2, but emissions trading and the SAF quota, correctly implemented, are effective instruments for the desired decarbonization of air traffic.” SAF stands for sustainably produced kerosene (“Sustainable Aviation Fuels”), which is blended with aviation fuel.

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