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Irish airline Ryanair is now listed among Europe’s top 10 emitters of carbon, according to EU figures released on Monday. 

It’s the first time ever that a non-coal company has been named on the list by the EU’s Emission Trading System (EU ETS), launched in 2005 to help combat global warming. 

In total, Ryanair produced 9.9 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 — an increase of 7% compared to 2017, according to the Guardian, and up 49% over the last five years. 

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And according to Transport & Environment (T&E) — a European collective of NGOs working to promote sustainable transport — the ranking highlights aviation as “Europe’s biggest climate failure.” 

The group said the ranking demonstrates that Europe is failing to “rein in the runaway emissions growth of aviation, which pays no taxes on its fuel and VAT on its tickets.” 

“When it comes to climate, Ryanair is the new coal,” said Andrew Murphy, the aviation manager at T&E, in a statement. “This trend will only continue until Europe realises that this undertaxed and under-regulated sector needs to be brought into line.”

The group warned that relying on voluntary gestures from the sector isn’t enough, and that legislation is needed to limit airlines’ increasing carbon emissions. 

In response, Ryanair told Global Citizen over email: “Ryanair is Europe’s greenest and cleanest airline. Passengers travelling on Ryanair have the lowest CO2 emissions per km travelled than any other airline.” 

Green economy news site Business Green has highlighted that low-cost airlines generally do have lower carbon emissions when considered per passenger because there are more passengers per flight. 

Meanwhile, the other nine companies named and shamed in the ranking are all coal power plants — seven of which are in Germany, and one is in Bulgaria. The last — ranked No. 1 on the list — is Belchatow in Poland, which produces 38 megatonnes of emissions each year. 

Among other airlines in Europe that reportedly appeared on the ranking were EasyJet in 31st place following an 11% rise in emissions in 2018; Lufthansa, Norwegian, and British Airways. 

In total, airlines’ carbon emissions grew by nearly 5% within Europe last year, and by over 26% since 2014, according to T&E — “far outpacing” any other mode of transport. 

Currently, aviation is reportedly responsible for about 3% of Europe’s total greenhouse gas emissions. But according to industry forecasts cited in the Guardian, this could rise by up to 700% by 2050 as the sector gets larger. 

Murphy added: “The time has come for a big change in Europe’s aviation policy.” 

There is some good news, however, with coal emissions falling across Europe by over 4%, largely thanks to moves towards cleaner energy alternatives. The power and heat sector reportedly saw a 6% drop in emissions.


Defend the Planet

This Airline Is the First Non-Coal Company to Join Europe's Top 10 Carbon Emitters

By Imogen Calderwood