Business Irish

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Ryanair's carbon-credit bill tipped to break €200m by 2024


Ryanair is among the EU's top 10 polluters. Photo: Reuters
Ryanair is among the EU's top 10 polluters. Photo: Reuters

John Reynolds

Ryanair passenger growth forecasts suggest the cost of carbon credits to the low-cost Irish airline may exceed €200m within the next five years.

It emerges after the company was ranked in the EU's top 10 polluters in April, with carbon emissions topping 9.9m tonnes.

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Ryanair confirmed it spent €115m on carbon credits last year under the EU emissions trading system, adding that it did not plan to pass on the charge to passengers.

The airline forecasts that passenger numbers will increase by a third, from 153 million this year, to 200 million in 2024. Its emissions could grow by a further 3.3 million tonnes from their current level. Carbon credits for these would cost €82.5m at the current price.

Ryanair's chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said: "Much of that growth will come from taking market share from other airlines. It won't be new fliers. They might switch to us from an airline with more polluting planes.

"We aim to reduce our emissions from a current level of 66g per passenger kilometre down to at least 60g by 2030."

Ryanair aims to achieve a reduction in its pollution primarily by using the Boeing 737 Max plane, which uses less fuel and carries more passengers than its existing 737s. It is awaiting certification by regulators, however, which Jacobs said he expected by the end of this year.

He also claimed that larger airlines that fly long-haul routes could reduce their carbon footprint if they got rid of their planes' first-class sections.

"I'd ask whether first-class flying should come to an end. It needs to be on the table. It gives a low load factor [meaning fewer passengers are on a plane]," he said. First-class passengers are among the most profitable for airlines, however.

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan said: "The airline's recent green claims do not absolve them of the fact that their total emissions are rising. The CO2 put into the atmosphere now will be there for 1,000 years. Low-cost airlines may also encourage shorter breaks to a certain extent, whereas longer stays are a more sustainable form of tourism."

Ryanair's emissions are about twice that of Uganda (with total emissions of 5.04m tonnes in 2017), which has a population of 44 million people. The airline's passengers can voluntarily offset their CO2 emissions through a small payment to First Climate, which has a project in Uganda to provide people with efficient cooking stoves that they use instead of open fires.

The European Aviation Safety Agency plans to grade aircraft according to how polluting they are with a labelling system, similar to the one used on TVs and household appliances.

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