By Sharon Kimathi, Energy and ESG Editor, Reuters Digital
Today’s focus is on airlines that are flying a bit too close to the sun with their sustainability claims, causing turbulence for regulators, courts and consumer agencies.
Ryanair, Lufthansa and Etihad have all faced criticism from Britain’s advertising watchdog for either alleged instances of oversimplifying or providing misleading environmental claims.
Whether it was Ryanair calling itself Europe’s “lowest emission airline” or Lufthansa saying it was “protecting the future” or Etihad referring to “sustainable aviation”, the airlines were told to avoid wording that could imply their activities were good for the environment.
“One of the things we just caught onto was that a lot of airlines are making claims about sustainability and eco-friendly, sustainable choices, greener choices,” said Miles Lockwood, the director of complaints and investigations at Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Ryanair and Lufthansa Group told Reuters they had provided all of the information requested by relevant authorities for their campaigns. Etihad said it was disappointed by the ASA’s 2022 ruling against it.
Campaign leader Hiske Arts speaks during a meeting of climate group Fossil Free Netherlands at their office in Amsterdam, Netherlands August 24, 2023. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
KLM civil lawsuit
When Dutch airline KLM launched adverts urging customers to “fly responsibly” and think about the environmental impact before booking a flight, it said it was showing its commitment to a sustainable future.
But the 2019 campaign sparked criticism and last year environmental activists filed a suit accusing the company of “greenwashing” or making misleading environmental claims.
The case filed by Fossil Free Netherlands highlights the dilemma facing airlines as they try to boost growth for shareholders but also convince the public they are taking steps to cut carbon emissions.
KLM’s owner, Air France-KLM, said in its 2022 annual report that damage to its environmental reputation was a business risk that could lead to it losing public or political support.
On Sept. 1, the Dutch government said it planned to cap flights at Schiphol Airport, KLM’s base, at 9.5% below 2019 levels, primarily to reduce noise pollution, but also in light of goals to cut emissions.
Air France-KLM and other airlines plan to contestthe decision at the European level.
Responding to Reuters questions, KLM said aviation was a “hard to abate” sector in terms of emissions, but that it planned to meet 2030 climate targets by buying more efficient planes and gradually using more biofuel.
While advertising authorities have banned some ads, they say airlines should be allowed to discuss improvements in order to prevent “greenhushing” or allowing the issue to disappear from discussion.
Delta class action
The civil suit lodged against KLM in the Netherlands is one of the most prominent, but complaints and cases against other airlines have been mounting.
Delta Air Lines faces a proposed class action lawsuit in a Los Angeles federal court over advertisements in which it touted itself as “carbon neutral” based on carbon offset purchases.
The lawsuit alleges that carbon offset programmes don’t work as advertised and the company misled consumers. Delta has said the lawsuit is without legal merit.
A view shows people inspecting the damaged areas, in the aftermath of the floods in Derna, Libya September 14, 2023. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
Survivors of a flood that swept away the center of a Libyan city picked through the ruins in search of loved ones from among thousands of dead and missing, while authorities feared an outbreak of disease from rotting bodies.
A Greek prosecutor has ordered a probe into the causes and handling of floods triggered by a storm that killed at least 15 people, swamped houses and destroyed infrastructure in Greece last week, semi-state Athens News Agency said.
Fisherman Vancho Vasilevski’s boat frequently runs aground when he sails on Lake Prespa, one of Europe’s oldest lakes and home to more than 2,000 species of fish, birds, mammals and plants, in a sign of how much water the lake is losing.
United Auto Workers (UAW) union President Shawn Fain said on Wednesday the union is still seeking significant pay hikes as talks continue with the Detroit Big Three automakers, a day before four-year labor deals are set to expire.
The U.S. agency that enforces workplace discrimination laws said that it had sued Walmart over allegations it fired hourly workers with disabilities who could not pass a computer-based test.
Nike investors voted against two shareholder-led proposals – one on pay equity for female and minority employees and another on human rights commitments in its supply chain – during the sportswear giant’s annual meeting, according to a preliminary tally by the company.
Cameron Jones, chief commercial officer at software company, SilverRail, shares his thoughts on sustainable travel options:
“Europe’s rail industry holds the key to creating a greener, more sustainable future for transport.
“Trains, on average, produce 90% less carbon than planes, however passengers’ transport decisions are motivated by more pragmatic concerns: cost of travel, speed, and quality of service. And air travel’s perceived ability to offer the lowest cost and quickest journeys is often too attractive for them to ignore.
“To encourage passengers to choose trains over planes, the rail industry must provide a comparable experience – finding a way to get people to their destination quickly and cost effectively. The solution lies in increasing competition on the High-Speed Rail (HSR) across Europe.
“In fact, according to our study, if the proportion of passengers choosing trains over planes rose to 50% across 28 European routes currently covered by High-Speed Rail (HSR), this would prevent up to 2.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions entering the earth’s atmosphere.
“The rail industry has a central role to play in tackling the climate crisis and now is the time to prioritize adding competition to the HSR market to help cut travel times, reduce the cost of travel, and improve the travel experience; all of which will create lasting change in passengers’ transport decisions.”
BP’s interim CEO Murray Auchincloss said the company won’t be derailed from its energy transition strategy by former leader Bernard Looney’s abrupt resignation amid misconduct allegations.
BP scaled back its energy transition strategy earlier this year but still stands out among rivals as the only oil major with plans to cut oil and gas output by 2030 by 25%. Looney had held the top job at the British oil giant since February 2020 and led a radical transformation. He stepped down on Tuesday over allegations of personal relationships with company colleagues.
Tom Grundy, CEO of Hybrid Air Vehicles poses inside a mockup interior of an Airlander aircraft, in Bedford, Britain September 11, 2023. REUTERS/Stuart McDill
In keeping with the airplane theme of the newsletter, today’s spotlight shines a light on a helium-filled air vehicle in Britain, while the EU sets its sights on binding targets for airlines to increase their use of sustainable aviation fuels.
UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) said it is partnering with Britain’s biggest defense company BAE Systems to explore the use of its Airlander helium-filled aircraft in transporting equipment and surveillance.
The Airlander 10, which HAV hopes to bring into commercial production in 2026, is attracting attention among aviation, freight and defense companies as they seek to decarbonise air transport.
HAV said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with BAE’s FalconWorks unit to explore using the aircraft, which can stay airborne for up to five days, offering potential benefits versus military helicopters.
HAV’s CEO Tom Grundy said that while travel is slower than conventional flying, the Airlander emits up to 90% less carbon and that is creating demand despite the problematic past of airships.
An Air France aircraft, operated with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by TotalEnergies, before its flight from Nice to Paris at Nice airport, France, Oct 1, 2021. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo
Elsewhere, the European Parliament adopted a deal to set binding targets for airlines in Europe to increase their use of sustainable aviation fuels.
The approved proposal aims to increase both demand for and supply of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), which have net-zero CO2 emissions or lower CO2 emissions than fossil fuel kerosene.
Fuel suppliers must ensure that 2% of fuel made available at EU airports is SAF in 2025, rising to 6% in 2030, 20% in 2035 and gradually to 70% in 2050.
Quote of the Day
“Sustainable aviation fuel, when used neatly, can reduce lifecycle carbon emissions by as much as 80% when compared to traditional fossil-based fuels. It is currently the aviation industry’s most promising pathway to decarbonizing air travel.”
Andrew Crawley, president of the American Express global business travel
Sept. 15, Madrid, Spain: Spanish Football Federation expected to present new women’s soccer coach Montse Tome who is set to replace Jorge Vilda following the Rubiales kiss scandal.
Sept. 15, Reuters.com: Tune in to a live broadcast interview with Norway’s Minister for Climate and the Environment Espen Barth Eide.
Sept. 15, Berlin, Germany: Thousands of Fridays for Future climate activists and their supporters are expected to join the “Global Climate Rally” during a protest in Berlin.
Sept. 16, Sydney, Australia: Australians converge on Sydney’s CBD to demand an end to fossil fuels, joining thousands of strikes around the world.
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