Lack of climate safeguards prompts disappointment in KLM coronavirus aid

A KLM plane at an icy Schiphol Airport, 12 Feb 2018
A KLM plane at an icy Schiphol Airport, 12 Feb 2018Photo: Zachary Newmark / NL Times

Green party GroenLinks and environmental organizations are disappointed that the government did not use its coronavirus aid package of 3.4 billion euros for KLM to make more sustainability demands on the airline. The only climate related conditions set were fewer night flights and that KLM agrees to already existing environmental and climate requirements.

The environmental conditions attached to the aid package are that KLM must reduce the number of is night flights by 20 percent, and comply with the government's previously established climate requirements - that airlines emit half less CO2 per passenger by 2030 that 14 percent of fuels used must be sustainable, Trouw reports. In the press conference announcing the aid package, Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen acknowledged that these requirements are not new, but now KLM is signing it.

GroenLinks is annoyed. According to the party, the government is leaving the aviation sector free to just reset to pre-crisis conditions. "These are not strict requirements, but the green wash that we are used to seeing in aviation," parliamentarian Suzanne Kroger said to ANP. The government missed an opportunity by not setting stricter climate requirements, according to the party.

Greenpeace Nederland called it "unacceptable" in a response on Twitter. "Today the government decided to keep KLM in the air with 3.4 billion euros in taxpayers' money, without good green and fair conditions," the environmental organization said. In protest, Greenpeace along with Milieudefensie are holding a "common thread" protest throughout the Netherlands - with protesters standing 1.5 meters apart, holding thread between them. The demand is to make climate the "common thread" in government policy.

Residents living around Schiphol are pleased that the number of night flights will decrease, but also believe that the government did not go far enough. "It ensures that the most annoying source of nuisance, namely night flights, is reduced and we are satisfied with that," Matt Poelmans of the local residents' association said to NOS. "But the Minister also said at the press conference that the hub function of Schiphol will be maintained and that is one of the main problems." 

Schiphol serves as a transfer location for many travelers. Local residents would have liked to see this type of air traffic being restricted or scrapped completely. "The best form of nuisance reduction is to reduce the number of flights that are not needed," Poelmans said. "And we have calculated that of the 500,000 flights per year, the Netherlands only needs 400,000."

Parliamentarians from the coalition parties are satisfied with the aid package and conditions attached. ChristenUnie MP Eppo Bruins told ANP that the party is pleased that the support is pushing KLM to make "the transition to less nuisance, less pollution and lower top rewards". The party "supports the conditions that the cabinet set for the loans and guarantees for KLM," Bruins said. 

D66 MP Joost Sneller told the news wire that it is "good that the biggest bankruptcy in our history has been prevented with the loan and guarantee on bank loans". He called the sustainability requirements a "step forward".

VVD parliamentarian Roald van der Linde called it a "good step by the cabinet", saying that the aid package "offers prospects to thousands of aviation workers in these difficult times."