Ryanair: ‘We’re reviewing everything around environmental sustainability’

Aviation was firmly in the spotlight in 2019 – and for all the wrong reasons. Greta Thunberg’s insistence on not flying over environmental concerns took the so-called ‘flight-shaming’ movement global. Add that to calls to action by Sir David Attenborough, national governments, international bodies and some of the world’s largest investors, and you have a perfect storm – which, the Air Transport Association (Iata) is warning, could limit industry growth.

These trends, coupled with the growing global prevalence of net-zero legislation, have hit companies across the global aviation sector. But for Irish budget airline Ryanair, the hit has been particularly hard. A report by Transport & Environment (T&E) last year concluded that the company was the EU’s ninth-highest corporate carbon emitter in 2018, making it the first corporate without holdings in coal-fired power plants to ever rank within the bloc’s top 10. It made headlines in many of Europe’s major tabloids.

At the time, Ryanair countered the report’s claims by pointing out that the emissions were calculated on an overall company basis and not by its preferred metric – emissions per passenger, per kilometre travelled.

Speaking exclusively to edie, Ryanair’s director of sustainability Thomas Fowler stood by the company’s choice to use that metric and insisted that it was gaining traction among airlines, their investors, and their passengers alike.

“We try and tell investors that yes, in totality, we are going to have a big number, because we’re the largest airline in Europe,” he said. “You ultimately have to measure on a per-passenger, per kilometre basis…. The aviation industry have all agreed on the metric… A lot of investors are realising this is the metric.”

Fowler also took issue with the fact that the T&E report only accounted for emissions reported under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which excludes international flights departing from or arriving to the bloc from non-member countries.

“We’re in a unique position as aviation in that we already get taxed heavily under the ETS. We’re paying €150m this year in ETS, which isn’t being re-invested in the aviation sector.”

Ryanair’s emissions per passenger per kilometre stood at 66g at the end of 2019. The firm is targeting a reduction to 60g by 2030

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