2nd Jun 2023

MEPs host aviation lobby dinner on eve of climate vote

  • Critics say some airlines are pushing a vision of the green transition that will not help the planet (Photo: Zach Stern)
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Key liberal and centre-right MEPs have organised a dinner with aviation lobbyists on the eve of a crucial plenary vote on climate change.

The move comes as industry lobbyists intensify their efforts to influence European lawmakers on a wide package of reforms that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030.

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  • Emailed invitation was sent to other MEPs on 31 May 2022 (Photo: EUobserver)

Both MEPs, German liberal Jan-Christoph Oetjen and Romanian centre-right Marian-Jean Marinescu, appear to be easing those interests.

The two have organised a closed-door dinner event inside the European Parliament restaurant in Strasbourg on Monday (6 June) with Airlines for Europe (A4E).

The following day, lawmakers are set to vote on climate policies that directly affect the aviation industry.

A4E represents Europe's largest airlines, whose combined fleet represents over 70 percent of European air traffic. Last year, it spent up to €1.2m lobbying the EU.

Marinescu is the main centre-right (European People's Party, EPP) voice in the European Parliament's Committee on Transport and Tourism.

And Oetjen is a leading MEP working on the EU emissions trading system, a policy seen as vital in combating climate change.

"The aviation industry is fully embracing the green transition," says Oetjen, in a dinner invitation email seen by EUobserver.

Oetjen says the feast will "facilitate a frank discussion" on the revision of the EU ETS for aviation as well as the future of Corsia, the UN's aviation offsetting scheme.

Neither responded to emailed questions on the dinner, associated costs, and why it is off limits to the public when a debate and vote on those very same issues will take place the following day in the plenary.

A recent study by the Transport & Environment, a campaign group, said that some of the EU's largest airlines are in fact lobbying to weaken EU's climate laws.

Yet the same airlines claim they will meet net zero emissions by 2050.

But their study found that lobbying by Air France, Lufthansa, Iberia and Aer Lingus seeks "to let up to 72 percent of EU aviation emissions off the hook."

Both Lufthansa and Air France are A4E members.

Jo Dardenne, an aviation expert at Transport & Environment, said the airlines are in fact trying to water down EU plans to increase the use of cleaner jet fuels.

"The aviation industry is also trying to get an exemption on the pricing of their pollution on long-haul flights," she said, in an email.

Dardenne said the industry should instead be supporting the extension of the EU ETS to departing flights and put an end to unnecessary subsidies.

"No airline should be taken seriously if it continues to say that ICAO's cheap and ineffective offsetting scheme can solve their climate problem," she also said.

As for the wider issue of industry lobbying, it has only intensified, said Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout.

"There is no shame anymore. I mean, they don't even hide it," he said of the scheduled dinner with A4E in Strasbourg.

"I am astonished that they don't even hide the way they listen to the lobby," he said.

The plenary in Strasbourg on Tuesday will debate and vote on the EU Emissions Trading System for aviation, as well as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation.

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