Air France is currently battling new green taxes imposed on airlines apart from the coronavirus crisis, with this being a test of increasing policy tensions between aiding Europe’s suffering airline industry and trying to reach climate goals.
The Franco-Dutch group, which is currently being sustained by €10.4 billion euros in state-backed loans, is facing higher duties in both home markets and also due to EU plans to increase airlines’ carbon costs to cut as much of the carbon footprint as possible.
The struggle that is unfolding around Air France-KLM is just a part of what is happening for carbon-intensive industries, with efforts to curb global warming resulting in more taxes and stricter regulation.
Plenty of campaigners have claimed that these taxes and regulations are long overdue, yet crisis-hit airlines have warned that the timing of these measures and their severity will result in the losses of thousands of jobs and will also negatively impact the development of lower-carbon technologies.
Air-France-KLM Chief Executive Ben Smith claimed that these new taxes “do not support emissions reductions”.
He told an online industry forum this month that “In fact it’s counterproductive and would deprive us of finances that could otherwise be invested in environmental projects”.
However, tensions can only rise with emissions goals being toughened to slow the rate that climate change is going at.
The European Union’s executive is now demanding measures to cut greenhouse gas output by 55% over the next decade, rather than the previous 40%, from a 1990 baseline.
The pandemic has dampened climate protests which were being led by Extinction Rebellion and Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, with their political legacy having to be squared with the economic emergency that the pandemic has driven the world to.
The airline industry has been the worst-hit industry so far in the pandemic, with plenty of countries imposing travel restrictions that have discouraged people to travel.
Whilst numerous airports around Europe reopened over the last few months, the measures that are still in place are extremely strict and have not given the industry the necessary boost to return to its pre-pandemic levels.