KLM's sustainability plans lack ambition, environmental groups say
In exchange for a 3.4 billion euros support package from the government, KLM promised to improve its sustainability. But the company's plans are old and not very ambitious, according to environmental organization Milieudefensie and Paul Peeters, professor of sustainable transport and tourism at Breda University of Applied Sciences, RTL Nieuws reports.
In exchange for the package of government-guaranteed loans to get KLM through the coronavirus crisis, the Dutch airline has to reduce its emissions by 50 percent per passenger kilometer by 2030 compared to 2005, and use 14 percent sustainable fuel by that year.
Environmental groups already pointed out that these are not new goals, but goals the government already set in its sustainability plans presented in May. Aviation can continue to grow, but emissions must be cut in half by 2050, according to those plans. So KLM's sustainability goals are nothing new, Bram van Liere of Milieudefensie said to RTL. "As far as we have seen, these are all plans that were already there." Lowering emissions per passenger kilometer is interesting in theory, but if the sector is allowed to grow further and transport more passengers, it will not yield any results. "If we fly more, the environmental benefits will evaporate again."
Professor Peeters agrees - if you really want to reduce emissions, you have to look at total emissions, he said to the broadcaster. "You cannot speak of a strong sustainability policy at KLM." He is not super surprised by this. Going green on your own as a company in a highly competitive market is a difficult endeavor, especially because there are a lot of costs involved.
According to Peeters, KLM has two options for cutting emissions. Firstly, via more efficient aircraft. "KLM has been working on this recent years," he said. That quickly makes a big difference. But on the downside, replacing the fleet is expensive and takes a long time. And there is just about zero chance of a well-functioning aircraft being replaced.
The other option is more sustainable fuels, one of the airline's goals. There is high hopes for fuel from a new factory that will be built in Delfzijl, where kerosene will be made from waste like cooking oil. Many studies are also ongoing into finding a sustainable form of hydrogen. The downside to focusing on this option is that there is currently too little biofuel available, and large scale production comes at the expense of agricultural land, and thus nature.
Other quick solutions often proposed include a tax on kerosene, a tax on airline tickets, and simply flying less. But these are not things that a company, which wants to grow and make profit, likes to hear.