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Ryanair claims to be 'greenest' airline following appearance on list of worst carbon polluters in Europe

The airline emitted 9.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide last year.

Image: Shutterstock/Vytautas Kielaitis

RYANAIR HAS DEFENDED its environmental record after the EU’s Verified Emissions report found that the airline was one of the worst carbon polluters in Europe.

According to new data, the airline emitted 9.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide last year, up from 9.2 million tonnes in 2017 and 8.4 million tonnes in 2016.

This made the airline one of the top 10 worst polluters last year, the first time a company that does not run a coal-fired power plant made it onto the list. 

Ryanair was also the only Irish company listed in the top 10, coming behind seven companies based in Germany, and two located in Bulgaria and Poland. 

However in a statement today, the company defended its record, with a spokesman saying the airline was Europe’s “greenest and cleanest”.

“Passengers travelling on Ryanair have the lowest CO2 emissions per km travelled than any other airline,” the spokesman said.

The company also claimed that it delivered “an industry-leading CO2 per passenger-km metric, which is 25% lower than the average of the other four European airliners and 39% lower than the average of 21 airlines globally”. 

Meanwhile, Ryanair added that passengers were given the option to donate to a climate charity partner when they fly with the airline to “offset the carbon cost of their flight”. 

Aviation figures

According to the European Commission, direct emissions from aviation accounts for about 3% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions and more than 2% of global emissions. 

By 2020, it forecasts that global aviation emissions will be around 70% higher than in 2005. 

Andrew Murphy, aviation manager of the NGO group, European Federation for Transport and Environment, said airline emissions will continue to grow unless measures, including further taxation, are introduced. 

“When it comes to climate, Ryanair is the new coal,” he said. 

“This trend will only continue until Europe realises that this under-taxed and under-regulated sector needs to be brought into line, starting with a tax on kerosene and the introduction of mandates that force airlines to switch to zero-emission jet fuel.”

However, Diarmuid O’Gorman, an aerospace engineering lecturer at IT Carlow, suggested that Ryanair’s efficiency – loading planes by an average of more than 94% – made travelling on the carrier more efficient than travelling by car.

Short-haul

He also claimed that Ryanair’s appearance on the top 10 list was down to the number of routes the company operates.

“They’re a huge airline, and they’re flying so many passengers,” he told TheJournal.ie.

“If you compare their emissions across the industry, other airlines do just as poorly: it’s just that Ryanair have over 400 aircraft.”

In February, Ryanair reported a 9% increase in passenger numbers, carrying 9.3 million passengers, up from the 8.6 million passengers carried in the same month last year. 

O’Gorman said that the airline could claim to have become more efficient in recent years, increasing its emissions by 17% over the same three-year period that it had seen a 20% rise in passenger numbers.

“They unfortunately suffer a bit because they’re a short-haul airline,” he added.

“They’re not getting up and doing ten-hour journeys that others might do. Aircraft perform better the higher altitude they travel at, so they suffer a bit there too.”

With additional reporting from Conor McCrave.

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