On Wednesday, Greenpeace asked a court in The Hague to block the remainder of the €3.4 billion ($4 billion) state-guaranteed loans bound for KLM. The international organization says that the environmental conditions placed on the bailout package are insufficient. This is not the first chapter in Greenpeace’s activism against Dutch aviation, which has included both runway and airport occupations.
Halting the support would risk bankruptcy
The terms set by the Dutch government for KLM to access the rescue funds include new environmental and noise pollution targets. These state that the airline needs to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half compared to 2005 levels by 2035. Greenpeace says this is not enough, as the total number of passengers is expected to grow.
“Climate change is dangerous and is happening now,” Greenpeace lawyer Frank Peters told the district court of The Hague, Reuters reports. “The government has missed the chance to deal with pollution caused by aviation now.”
The government says that its conditions are comparable to international aviation agreements. To impose any stricter terms at this stage would be detrimental to rescue efforts.
“Stricter climate demands will mean significantly higher costs and a disadvantage to competitors,” Karlijn Teuben, a lawyer representing the Dutch state, said. “An order to stop the support straightaway will also hurt the company’s ability to borrow money and it is difficult to see how this would not risk bankruptcy.”
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From runway occupation to courtroom battle
This is not the first bout between Greenpeace and KLM this year. In May, a group of the organization’s activists occupied one of the runways at Schiphol Airport. The demands made were for a falling CO2 ceiling, fewer flights, and for trains to replace short-haul flights. Furthermore, the protestors requested that government support for all businesses be made conditional on strict environmental demands corresponding to the Paris agreement.
Vandaag is het kort geding van @GreenpeaceNL tegen de overheid over de KLM-staatssteun.
Hieronder zal ik live updates delen vanuit de rechtbank 👇 pic.twitter.com/PRetf3eoDc
— Maarten de Zeeuw (@maarten_dezeeuw) November 18, 2020
In December last year, Greenpeace organized a “protestival” at Schiphol Airport along with the Extinction Rebellion movement. The 24-hour event, where police detained some activists, was staged to demand a climate action plan for the airport. Greenpeace said Schiphol was the country’s “largest tax-free gas station.”
The Internet not far behind aviation when it comes to pollution
It is, of course, true that commercial aviation is a significant contributor to CO2 emissions. Aviation, pre-COVID, contributes to between 2% and 3% of global emissions. With the rise of the “flight shaming” movement in Northern Europe, individuals and airlines are being pushed to respond to growing social pressure and customer concern.
Meanwhile, in comparison, watching videos online, which corresponds to about 60% of internet traffic, is responsible for about 300 million tonnes of CO2 per year. That is equal to 1% of emissions worldwide. While greenhouse gases from air travel are bound to increase as demand returns and grows during the coming years, so are emissions from internet usage as connectivity continues to expand globally.
Commercial aviation has a long, rough road ahead. To be able to implement ambitious environmental practices moving forward, such as investing in newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft and biofuel, airlines must first survive. Otherwise, there could be a significant amount of people, laid-off airline staff and would-be holidaymakers alike, that will be at home Netflixing instead. Either way, it is not in the best interest of the climate movement that one of the environmental frontrunners in the industry not make it through the crisis.
What are your thoughts on stricter climate conditions for aviation at this time? Let us know in the comments.