Ryanair’s climate credentials: more hot air

Airline’s claim to be ‘the greenest and the cleanest’ is baiting the environmental lobby

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary thinks climate change is "bullshit". The same might be said of his airline's claim to be "the greenest and cleanest" in Europe.

Since it was named and shamed as one of the continent’s worst polluters – the EU’s Transport and Environment (T&E) group estimated it produced 9.9 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, putting it on a par with some of the filthiest coal plants in Europe – the airline has embarked on a campaign to tout its eco-friendly credentials.

This while O'Leary himself denies the science behind climate change, rails against "f***ing eco warriors" and lobbies hard in Brussels against a jet fuel tax.

Central to the airline’s green charm offensive is the publication of monthly emissions data or, more precisely, emissions per passenger per kilometre travelled. This tidy little metric plays to Ryanair’s strengths. Because the carrier has no business class, a higher load factor than most and more fuel-efficient aircraft, it comes out on top. Hence the airline can boast that “passengers travelling on Ryanair have the lowest CO2 emissions per km travelled than any other airline”.


Of course, this metric overlooks the bald fact that Ryanair’s emissions are huge in industry terms and have risen by 50 per cent in the past five years.

As a result, the airline is ranked as Europe's 10th worst emitter of greenhouse gases, after eight coal plants and one shipping company. To put this in perspective, EasyJet, Europe's next worst-performing airline, was ranked in 31st place.

And while coal emissions are falling as the continent shifts to cleaner energy, emissions from the airlines, which are exempt from fuel taxes and VAT on tickets, are rocketing. They’ve jumped 26 per cent since 2014, outstripping all other transport sectors.

O'Leary thrives on baiting the environmental lobby. He once claimed: "We want to annoy the f***ers whenever we can". Safe to say his airline's green boast has done just that.