We must address climate change, says climate sceptic Michael O'Leary as Ryanair unveils green policy
Ryanair is expecting to take first deliveries of the new Boeing 737 MAX 200 early in 2019
Wed 14 Mar 2018 – Well-known for his pronouncements that climate change is a hoax, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary appears to have undergone a change of mind. In a foreword to Ryanair’s new environmental policy document, he said aviation must play its role in addressing climate change and Europe’s largest airline “is committed to leading the way.” The airline supported the 2-degree ambition of the Paris climate agreement, he added, and also IATA’s goal of reducing the sector’s net CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050 against 2005 levels. He has targeted the airline to achieving an emissions performance 8% better by 2030 than currently and 31% better than the average of the four other biggest European airlines. The low-cost carrier has also pledged to eliminate all non-recyclable plastics within five years and is introducing a carbon offsetting option for passengers.
“As well as being Europe’s favourite airline, with the best customer service, Ryanair is also Europe’s cleanest, greenest airline,” claimed O’Leary, who in the past has denied the existence of man-made climate change. “We are committed to managing the demands and impacts that our business activities place on the environment, and we are publishing this document to highlight our outstanding environmental achievements to date and our ambitious environmental targets for the future.”
He pointed out the fuel burn for a Ryanair aircraft was 0.0191 litres per passenger kilometre, 44% less than the fuel burn of a typical family car, and the airline was committing to achieving an emissions rate of 61.4 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometre by 2030. This represents a 66% reduction against levels in the year 2000. The airline reports that increasing load factors from 83% to 94% had reduced per passenger emissions by 13% in the last four years.
To reduce the noise impact on local communities, new Boeing 737 MAX 200 aircraft arriving in spring 2019 would further reduce noise by up to 40% per seat. The new aircraft are also expected to reduce fuel burn and emissions by up to 16% per seat.
Winglets on Ryanair aircraft are estimated to reduce fuel burn and emissions by 4% and lightweight seats by an additional 1% per aircraft. Other fuel saving initiatives include single-engine taxiing – 79% of arrival taxiing in 2017 was performed with one engine, a 39% improvement on 2015 performance – and increased use of ground power units instead of the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit.
Ryanair said it did not purchase low-carbon alternative fuels due to their high cost and the lack of consensus on sustainability criteria, but would move to 100% usage “when cost-competitive alternatives meeting globally-agreed sustainability criteria become available.” Using alternative fuels must conform to a number of principles, argues the airline. They should be regulated by one set of global rules that treated all airlines equally, the methods for quantifying life-cycle CO2 savings should also apply uniformly to all airlines and the CO2 savings must be traceable and verifiable.
The airline added it would continue to comply fully with current and future regulations of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) although as a short-haul airline operating almost entirely within the EU, 87% of its emissions were subject to the EU ETS. This, it noted, was a much higher proportion than legacy carriers as a result of the suspension of extra-EU flights from the scheme. Ryanair said it supported the replacement of the EU ETS with ICAO’s CORSIA global offsetting scheme.
Starting this year, the airline said it will add a voluntary option to the booking process that would allow customers to make a donation to offset their carbon emissions, but has not clarified if and how this would be calculated. The funds raised are planned to be distributed annually to environmental charities and NGOs “as selected by our people.”
The five-year plan to eliminate all non-recyclable plastics involves working with suppliers to source alternatives such as bio-degradable cups, wooden cutlery and paper packaging that will be used across the entire Ryanair operation. Other initiatives include maximising solar power usage at all facilities and investing €500,000 ($600,000) in all-LED lighting projects across offices and hangars. “Our new green HQ in Dublin promotes paperless practices, equipment and consumables recycling, cycling to work and a healthy lifestyle,” added Ryanair.
The carrier has committed to reporting on its jet fuel emissions annually as well as progress towards the 2030 target. Accountability for environmental risks and impacts falls to Chief Operations Officer, Peter Bellew.
“We are pleased to launch our Environmental Policy, which cements our commitment to continuously improving the carbon efficiency of our operations,” commented Bellew. “By minimising fuel and energy consumption, reducing noise pollution and relentlessly supporting global emissions targets, we will play our part in addressing climate change. We will lead the way through these initiatives and our progress will be published annually on our website and in our annual report.”