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Ryanair's Michael O'Leary accuses EU of favouring the rich

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary - ERIC LALMAND/AFP
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary - ERIC LALMAND/AFP

Ryanair's chief executive has accused the European Union of favouring wealthier long-haul travellers by limiting green taxes to short-haul flights.

Michael O'Leary accused the German, French and Dutch governments of blocking plans to extend a carbon trading scheme to any flight landing in the EU.

Currently only airlines that fly within the EU must participate in the carbon Emissions Trading System (ETS). Long-haul flights from the US or Asia, for instance, are exempt. The UK has operated a similar scheme of its own since Brexit.

Mr O'Leary said: “It is manifestly unfair that only short-haul flights within Europe are paying 100pc of environmental taxes. Long-haul flights continue to be exempt, despite the fact that long-haul flights account for about 6pc of passengers but [around] 54pc of CO2 emissions.

"The European Parliament, which I would not be a big fan of, has called for environmental taxation to be extended to all long-haul flights travelling to and from Europe.”

He continued: "[But] the European Council and Commission, under the influence of the Germans, the French and the Dutch, are pushing back and saying, 'No, we want to continue to exempt the most polluting flights used by the richest people travelling to and from Europe.' That's what lobbying gets you in the marble halls of Brussels."

Ryanair, Europe’s biggest airline, this week announced plans to reduce its carbon emissions by signing a deal with Shell to take sustainable aviation fuel across 200 airports.

Sustainable aviation fuel is made from waste raw materials such as used cooking oil. It is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80pc compared with standard aviation fuel.The green jet fuel is increasingly popular as airlines come under pressure from climate change campaigners to reduce their carbon footprint.

Many airlines also offer customers the option to offset their carbon emissions by paying an additional fee when purchasing their ticket. British Airways recently announced a new tool that makes it easier for its customers to carbon-offset their flights.

Ryanair has offered customers the option of either paying a voluntary €1 (86p) that goes towards a registered carbon offsetting programme or the option to fully offset their footprint for the last four years.

Mr O’Leary said that less than 1pc of customers took the first option and “no” passengers selected the latter.

He said: “When you give people the voluntary measures, they don't really take them up. Carbon offsetting isn’t really the way forward.

“I liken it [carbon offsetting] to a canteen committee here in the office and they meet once a month and call for healthy menus. And within two weeks, nobody wants to eat the healthy food options; they all want the chips and the crisps. I think that everybody is in favour of carbon offsetting and reducing their environmental footprint when it comes to flying; but they really want somebody else to pay for it."