Ryanair must ‘live within climate limits’, Eamon Ryan says as Michael O’Leary buys 300 new planes

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan

Caroline O'Doherty

Ryanair must “live within the climate limits”, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has said as the company places an order for 300 new aircraft.

The airline has agreed one of the biggest ever aircraft purchase deals, ordering 300 new Boeings for delivery between 2027 and 2034 in a package costing more than €36bn.

Some will replace existing aircraft while others will allow for route expansion – at a time when the aviation industry is already a major source of carbon emissions.

TheIrish Independent reported this week that Ryanair flights emitted more than nine million tonnes of carbon last year – the equivalent of the annual emissions of 750,000 people in Ireland.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said the new planes will be greener than current models, with improved efficiency enabling them to burn 20pc less fuel.

However, Mr Ryan said they would have to be ready to fly on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), carbon-free fuels that are still at an early stage of development.

“Ryanair is an incredibly successful company. They have benefitted this country in loads of different ways,” Mr Ryan said.

“But they know the aviation industry, like every other industry, has to live within the climate limits.”

Ryanair is grant-aiding research into SAF and Mr Ryan said he welcomed the interest that the company had shown in making the switch to green fuels.

“We have to scale that up so that those planes in 20 years’ time are operating in a way that is sustainable,” he said.

“Any investment made now has to look towards a future where we are not consuming fossil fuels and worsening the climate problem,” he said.

Mr Ryan was speaking as he launched a scheme to recognise companies and organisations that support their staff, students and visitors to minimise their car usage.

The Smarter Travel Mark will be awarded where initiatives and incentives are in use to encourage people to walk, cycle, scoot, take public transport or at least car-pool.

Any size employer from the private or public sector can apply and the mark will be awarded at the discretion of the National Transport Authority.

Applicants can avail of promotional materials and guides to help them implement changes.

“Where feasible, organisations will be encouraged to unlock car drivers’ habits by rewarding staff for giving up car parking spaces and thus reducing the amount of space needed for car parking at their site,” said Siobhán Hamilton, manager of the Smarter Travel programme.

Participants will be audited and may be awarded a bronze, silver or gold medal depending on their progress.

Transport is one of the areas where the Government is struggling to cut carbon emissions, as car dependency rates are high and most cars still run on fossil fuels.

Mr Ryan stressed the switch to active and public transport would not just benefit climate but would also create more attractive and healthier urban areas.

It would “stop the gridlock while slowing emissions”, he said.

“I’m particularly keen that public sector bodies strive to attain the mark,” he said.

"The public sector can be the champions for this change in this area.”