€7 billion bailout package for Air France comes with major environmental caveat

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French finance minister Bruno Le Maire has announced that the €7 billion (US$7.7 billion) package of state and bank loans being offered to the ailing French-flag-carrying Air France will come with significant “green strings” attached to it.

The principal demand is that in return for financial support, Air France sets itself a target of becoming the world’s most environmentally friendly carrier. In addition to the €7 billion aid from the French, the Dutch will be providing €3 billion (US$3.3 billion) to KLM, it’s partner airline. Specifically, Le Maire made it clear that by 2030, Air France would have to halve carbon emissions per passenger and per kilometer against 2005 levels. Overall emissions from domestic flights would also have to be halved by 2024, which would basically necessitate a substantial reduction in the number of short-haul flights the French carrier would operate. In addition, by 2025, the airline would have to set a target to source two per cent of its aviation fuel from sustainable sources.

“Lastly, investments will have to be directed in the coming years to renewing the fleet of long and medium-range planes to more effectively fight emissions,” Le Maire said, as reported by Reuters news agency. In this week’s Petersberg Dialogue climate conference, many ministers stressed the importance of climate action plans being included in airline bailout packages. Last week, in a letter from a number of MEPs, it was argued that state aid approval should only be granted to support packages that ensure airlines present credible emissions’ reduction plans, commit to pay tax on fuel, and curb short-haul flights where trains offer a viable alternative.

“If taxpayers are to bail out airlines, there must be a quid pro quo – this industry must help secure our future in the face of an unfolding climate emergency,” the letter stated. Contrary to the French and Dutch government’s approach, Greenpeace has discovered through use of the Freedom of Information Act that easyJet lobbied heavily against green taxes before receiving a £600 million (US$756 million) bailout loan from the U.K. government that ultimately came without any climate-related conditions.

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