Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire tells French Parliament €7bn support package would require ailing airline to set goal of becoming world's most environmentally-friendly carrier
The French government looks poised to set a high bar for countries considering attaching 'green strings' to airline bailout packages, announcing that support for Air France is contingent on it agreeing to ambitious new emissions goals.
The government announced late last week that it would offer a €7bn package of state loans and bank loans guaranteed by the state to the ailing airline.
The proposed deal formed part of a €10bn package from the French and Dutch governments to the Air France KLM group.
Announcing the support last week, France finance minister Bruno Le Maire said the package was "not a blank cheque" and stressed that enhanced sustainability policies would be linked to the €7bn.
Yesterday, Le Maire provided the lower house of parliament's economics committee with more details on the environmental conditions attached to the loans, confirming the airline would be required to map out a new path to profitability and set itself the goal of becoming the most environmentally friendly carrier in the world.
Specifically, he said the airline would have to halve carbon emissions per passenger and per kilometre against 2005 levels by 2030.
Overall emissions from domestic flights would also have to be halved by 2024, which would effectively require a significant reduction in the number of short haul flights operated by the company.
Moreover, the airline would have to set a target to source two per cent of its aviation fuel from sustainable sources by 2025.
"Lastly, investments will have to be directed in the coming years to renewing the fleet of long and medium-range planes to more effectively fight emissions," Le Maire said, in comments reported by Reuters.
The proposed environmental conditions provide a benchmark, as governments across Europe and the world consider how to support airlines that have been forced to the brink of collapse by national lockdowns in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Ministers taking part in this week's Petersberg Dialogue climate conference repeatedly stressed that economic recovery plans should seek to advance climate action.
Meanwhile, a letter last week from a number of MEPs on the European Parliament's transport committee argued state aid approval should only be granted to support packages that ensure airlines present credible emissions reduction plans, commit to pay tax on fuel, and curb short haul flights where trains offer a viable alternative.
"If taxpayers are to bail out airlines, there must be a quid pro quo - this industry must help secure our future in the face of an unfolding climate emergency," the letter stated.
However, there is also some resistance, both within the industry and some governments, to attaching complex conditions to bailout packages given increasingly stark warnings that some major airlines could collapse within months, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
The news comes as Greenpeace's Unearthed investigations team reported on documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests that revealed Easyjet had lobbied against green taxes on aviation ahead of its receiving a £600m loan from the British government that came without climate-related conditions.
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