EU Takes Aim at Airlines’ Greenwashing Tactics

white airliner wing on top of sea clouds

Despite industry-wide pledges to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, aviation remains one of the most challenging sectors to decarbonize due to limited alternatives to traditional jet fuel. (Credit: Caroline Cagnin, Pexels)

by | May 2, 2024

This article is included in these additional categories:

The European Commission has opened up investigations of 20 airlines regarding greenwashing practices in response to escalating concerns over potentially misleading environmental claims. This scrutiny focuses on airline assertions concerning offsetting carbon emissions from flying.

Greenwashing Investigation

On Tuesday, the European Commission announced an investigation that entails reaching out to airlines under scrutiny, alongside engaging national consumer protection authorities from Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain. While the specific airlines haven’t been disclosed, the involvement of national regulators underscores the seriousness of the matter.

At the heart of regulatory apprehensions are claims suggesting that carbon emissions from aviation can be effectively counterbalanced through investments in environmental projects or the use of more sustainable aviation fuels. While these alternative fuels emit carbon when burned, they are deemed less environmentally harmful than traditional kerosene.

“The airlines are yet to clarify whether such claims can be substantiated based on sound scientific evidence,” emphasized the European Commission.

Airlines for Europe reiterated its commitment to transparency in conveying information about sustainability efforts and aspirations for achieving net-zero carbon emissions. The association expressed concern over queries surrounding sustainable aviation fuels, citing the EU’s endorsement of such initiatives as a sustainable alternative to conventional jet fuel.

However, the aviation sector has faced regulatory scrutiny regarding its environmental impact. The EU’s recent crackdown on green assertions in corporate marketing reflects broader efforts to hold companies accountable for their environmental claims.

Airlines & Net-Zero Claims

In a recent case, a Dutch court ruled against flag carrier KLM, deeming its claim of enabling sustainable flying illegal. Similarly, the UK advertising watchdog took action against adverts by three airlines in December.

Despite industry-wide pledges to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, aviation remains one of the most challenging sectors to decarbonize due to limited alternatives to traditional jet fuel. Several airlines have introduced initiatives allowing passengers to contribute to carbon offsetting programs or opt for sustainable aviation fuels.

However, the European Commission highlighted numerous potentially misleading claims by airlines, including the suggestion that additional fees could fully offset CO2 emissions from flying or create the impression of imminent net-zero emissions without clear commitments, targets, or independent monitoring systems.

Airlines have been given a 30-day window to submit proposals addressing these concerns, to reach mutually agreed-upon adjustments and national authorities retain the authority to penalize non-compliant companies.

The Science-Based Targets initiative, an esteemed standard-setting body, remains divided on utilizing carbon credits to achieve net-zero emissions. Under existing guidelines, no major European airline has proposed climate targets ambitious enough to align with limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Additional articles you will be interested in.

Stay Informed

Get E+E Leader Articles delivered via Newsletter right to your inbox!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Share This