Environmental organizations make 22 demands to quickly make aviation more sustainable

This is evident from the action agenda for sustainable aviation, which the environmental organizations Natuur & Milieu, Greenpeace, Milieudefensie and Natuur- en Milieufederatie Noord-Holland presented to the Director General of Aviation in the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W). The report contains 22 recommendations to make aviation more sustainable faster.

Read more about sustainable aviation here

Schiphol is not a hub in Europe

According to the environmental organisations, it is urgently necessary now that the climate targets are not being met and nitrogen is becoming an increasing problem, while an airport like Schiphol still does not have a nature permit. The cabinet wants to limit the number of flights per year to a maximum of 440,000, but according to the organizations that number could be drastically reduced if the Netherlands no longer clings to Schiphol’s international hub function. Now 32 percent of all passengers change from one international flight to another. On flights operated by KLM and its partners, it is even 70 percent. According to the organisations, travelers are now being lured to Schiphol at dumped prices to switch to long-haul flights. It is unsustainable. “Schiphol simply can no longer be the place where all of Europe changes,” they say.

The climate effect is much greater

Since 1990, CO2 emissions from flights departing from the Netherlands have increased by 260 percent: from 4.6 million tons in 1990 to 12 million tons in 2019. Aviation is therefore responsible for approximately 6 percent of total Dutch CO2 emissions. In 2020, these emissions fell to 6.7 million tons due to the corona pandemic, but that effect has already been reversed. In addition, the greenhouse gases emitted by aircraft at higher altitudes have more negative effects on the climate. The total climate effect of Dutch aviation is therefore probably around 15 percent of the total.

Outside the climate agreement

Europe and the Netherlands do not yet have a policy to reduce the climate effect of flying. Aviation also does not have to comply with the agreements made with other sectors in the national climate agreement. In this agreement, it has been agreed to halve the emission of greenhouse gases in 2030 compared to 1990. Separate agreements have been made with aviation to be climate neutral in 2070, to halve emissions in 2050 and bring them up to the 2005 level in 2030. These targets are not set out in law and are therefore not enforceable. It is even expected that flight volume and thus the total energy consumption and emissions from aviation will increase sharply. One of the action points in the report is therefore also to bind aviation to these agreements.

Read more about the agreements and the progress of the climate agreement here

Ceiling for CO2 emissions

There should also be a CO2 cap for aviation. This appears from the coalition agreement, but the environmental organizations want it to be introduced already in the summer of 2023, as a kind of guarantee that agreed targets will also be reached. That cap must be in line with the Paris climate accords to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees. In that case, aviation must only emit a total of 172 megatons of CO2 before emission-free flight, and emissions must decrease by 5 percent annually. That makes room for about 300,000 to 360,000 flights a year, the report calculated. Less than the 440,000 that the government has proposed.

Tax on tickets and fuel

Other points of action in the report include an increase in the air passenger tax based on the principle that the polluter pays. All negative costs of flying – such as CO2, nitrogen, noise, ultrafine particles, land use – should be reflected in the price of a ticket. It should also become more expensive the longer you fly. Implementing an energy tax on jet fuel would increase the average ticket price by just 10 percent, but reduce aviation’s carbon emissions by 11 percent, the report said.

Tax on Frequent Flyer Miles

Now 8 percent of the Dutch make 40 percent of all air travel, mainly for business. To counter this, the government should tax Frequent Flyer Miles as revenue, following the German example. To make tourism less dependent on airplanes, the government should create information campaigns to make people aware of the climate impact of flying and ban fossil fuel advertising. Now the Dutch take the plane for a quarter of their holidays and thus cause almost two thirds of holiday emissions. In addition, the government should stimulate innovation and the development of quieter and cleaner aircraft more. By 2050, truly climate-neutral flight is only possible on 100 percent non-fossil fuels, but until 2050, electric flight or flight on hydrogen will probably only be possible for short distances.

Read more about the emissions from private jets, such as Max Verstappen’s here

Harmful and dishonest

According to the environmental organisations, it is socially and ecologically unsustainable to continue aviation policy in this way. “With our agenda, we propose solutions that enable aviation to operate within the limits of the climate and our living environment and to meet the aviation needs of the citizens of the Netherlands and the economy. Aviation must become more sustainable and faster. For the climate, nature and everyone who lives, works and lives near airports”, says director Marjolein Demmers from Nature & Environment. “Aviation in its current form, with even plans for growth, does not fit into the current reality at all. It is harmful and unfair that the sector is exempted from measures to stay within one and a half degrees of warming and at the same time benefits from many tax advantages that do not apply to other sectors.”

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