Curtailing Traditional Air Transport in Efforts to Green Spain’s Aviation Industry

Curtailing Traditional Air Transport in Efforts to Green Spain’s Aviation Industry

In early May 2020, the Spanish cabinet approved an important new climate law draft, with the objective of net-zero emissions by 2050. The plan also included an estimated €200 billion in investment, the creation of 350,000 new jobs, and a boost to the national economic growth by 1.8% over the next ten years. This is great news for Spain, one of the countries most ravaged by the ongoing COVID–19 pandemic. In line with many other countries and around the world, the Spanish airline industry has been bailed out by the government. However, considering how interconnected the airline industry is on a global scale, there have been talks of a European joint bailout for airlines. Spanish Economy Minister, Nadia Calviño, proposed this joint plan in May.

Calviño elaborated, “All these large carriers are not one nationality or another, they are European carriers. And that’s why we are strongly defending that we would provide a level playing field and, with different sorts of support, provide a similar level of funding and similar levels of credibility and strength to the different operators so that we do not create competition problems at the end of the day.”

In Spain, the airline industry contributes to 2.5% of aviation greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, carrying millions of passengers to and from the country each year, many of which are tourists. Spain was ranked tenth in the world in 2018 for the highest GHG emissions produced through aviation. Aviation contributes US $35.1 billion to the Spanish GDP and employs around 1.7 million Spanish citizens and permanent residents. While its revenue pre-pandemic was quite high compared to its European neighbors, Spain now faces a loss of US $13 billion since March. The industry is expected to see an uptick in passengers over the coming months; nonetheless, the industry is still not expected to make a full recovery until there is a vaccine for COVID–19. Additionally, the amount of money lost by the industry is not expected to be recovered in the regular economic cycle and will instead require a manual injection of money by the government, hence the bailout plans. Spain recently gave a €1.1 billion bailout to its two national airlines, Iberia and Vueling.

While it was initially a good idea to stimulate the economy with industry bailouts, there are two main problems with the current plans: (1) the bailouts focus on large businesses and skip over small businesses, their owners, and employees (from both small and large businesses), and (2) they do not consider the climate policy changes that are so urgent for the entire global population. As stated by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, “Governments should not use taxpayer cash to rescue fossil fuel companies and carbon-intensive industries, but should devote economic rescue packages for the coronavirus crisis to businesses that cut greenhouse gas emissions and create green jobs” (The Guardian).

With that being said, while aviation is clearly a very important industry for Spain and the rest of the world, considering its carbon footprint, especially compared to other countries around the world, now is a good time to reflect on how the industry can be remade to be more green, and what other types of transportation (and/or clean fuels) are available to either replace or complement the current aviation industry. Steps the airline industry can take to reduce its carbon footprint in Spain include using alternative jet fuels, replacing European travel with high-speed rail options, and generally traveling less, as quarantine has shown the power of meeting online versus in-person, saving a significant amount of carbon emissions simply by reducing business travel.

Activity Rating: **** Moving Forward

While Spain has endured a very difficult start to 2020, it looks as though the government is taking steps in the right direction, both for the economy and for the environment. The road to recovery is long, but Spaniards, and many others around the world, are hopeful that the changes not only will be implemented but will also continue to exist and to advance into the 2030s and up to 2050, when the final goals would ideally be met. Spain needs the support of the European Union, per usual, but positive changes in the EU’s climate policy department also give Spain a new light to continue down this correct path.

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Dear Señora Calviño,

We write to you with appreciation for your hard work during this difficult time, both for Spain and for the entire world, as we cope with the immediate and long-lasting effects of the COVID–19 pandemic. We empathize with the situation and your position as Minister of the Economy, imagining how difficult the job must be right now. While we very much agree that the economy must be recovered and must go on, we would like to suggest that instead of things returning to normal, that they take a turn in a greener direction. We read about how you would have liked Spain to support your national airlines with more money as Germany has done; however, we do not think this is a good idea. While aviation does represent a huge amount of GDP for the country (lumped in together with tourism), we recognize—and hope you also recognize—the importance of reshaping the economy to support greener industries. Curtailing aviation doesn’t mean stopping tourism (or even losing money); rather, it signifies a change in a more sustainable direction for the long-term objectives of the country, which include neutralizing carbon by 2050. With your support, Spain could begin to focus more on alternative jet fuel and high-speed rail, and aviation jobs could be transferred to these newer, more sustainable fields. Making changes such as these is the only reasonable way that Spain will move forward with its climate plans, while simultaneously keeping its economy afloat.

Thank you,

(Your name here)


Nadia Calviño Santamaría

Vicepresidenta tercera y ministra de Asuntos Económicos y Transformación Digital

  1. de la Castellana, 162. 28071 – Madrid

+34 91 258 28 52

Twitter: @NadiaCalvino

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Spain Country Manager Samantha Pettigrew

El rescate de la aviación española debería complementarse con combustibles alternativos, trenes de alta velocidad y menos viajes

A principios de mayo de 2020, el gabinete español aprobó un nuevo proyecto importante sobre la ley climática, con el objetivo de lograr emisiones netas a cero para 2050. El plan también incluye una inversión estimada de 200 mil millones de euros, la creación de 350.000 nuevos empleos y un impulso para el crecimiento económico nacional en un 1,8% durante los próximos diez años. Es una gran noticia para España, uno de los países más devastados por la pandemia de COVID-19. En línea con muchos otros países y por todo el mundo, la industria de las aerolíneas españolas ha sido rescatada por el gobierno. Sin embargo, considerando cuán interconectada están las aerolíneas a escala mundial, se ha hablado de un rescate europeo para las aerolíneas, conjunto con todos del UE. La ministra de Economía española, Nadia Calviño, propuso este plan en mayo.

Calviño explicó: “Todos estos grandes transportistas no son de una nacionalidad u otra, son transportistas europeos. Y es por eso que estamos defendiendo firmemente que proporcionemos un campo de juego nivelado y, con diferentes tipos de apoyo, proporcionemos un nivel similar de financiamiento y niveles similares de credibilidad y fortaleza a los diferentes operadores para que no creemos problemas de competencia al fin del día.”

En España, las aerolíneas contribuyen con el 2.5% de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero en todo el mundo para el sector de aviación. Se transporta a millones de pasajeros hacia y desde el país cada año, muchos de los cuales son turistas. España ocupó el décimo lugar en el mundo en 2018 por las mayores emisiones de GEI producidas a través de la aviación. La aviación contribuye con US $ 35,1 mil millones al PIB español y emplea a alrededor de 1,7 millones de ciudadanos españoles y residentes permanentes. Sus ingresos han caído muchísimos desde marzo. Se espera que la industria vea un aumento en los pasajeros durante los próximos meses; no obstante, aún no se espera que la industria se recupere por completo hasta que haya una vacuna para el COVID-19. Además, no se espera que la cantidad de dinero perdido por la industria se recupere en un ciclo económico regular y, en cambio, requerirá una inyección manual de dinero por parte del gobierno. España recientemente otorgó un rescate de 1.100 millones de euros a sus dos aerolíneas nacionales, Iberia y Vueling.

Si bien inicialmente fue una buena idea estimular la economía con rescates de la industria, existen dos problemas principales con los planes actuales: (1) los rescates se centran en las grandes empresas y se saltan las pequeñas empresas, sus propietarios y empleados (tanto las pequeñas como las grandes empresas), y (2) no consideran los cambios urgentes en la política climática para toda la población mundial. Como declaró el Secretario General de la ONU, António Guterres, “Los gobiernos no deberían usar los fondos públicos para rescatar a las compañías de combustibles fósiles y las industrias intensivas en carbono, sino que deberían dedicarlos a las empresas que reducen las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero y crean empleos verdes”(The Guardian).

Si bien la aviación es claramente una industria muy importante para España y por todo el mundo, al tomar en cuenta su huella de carbono, especialmente en comparación con otros países del mundo, ahora es un buen momento para reflexionar sobre cómo la industria puede rehacerse a ser más ecológicos. También se puede reflexionar sobre los otros tipos de transporte (y/o combustibles limpios) disponibles para reemplazar o complementar el estado de la aviación hoy en día. Los pasos que las aerolíneas pueden tomar para reducir sus huellas de carbono en España incluyen el uso de combustibles alternativos para aviones, reemplazar los viajes europeos por opciones de trenes de alta velocidad y, en general, viajar menos, ya que la cuarentena ha demostrado el poder de reunirse en línea, ahorrando una cantidad significativa de emisiones de carbono simplemente reduciendo los viajes de negocios.

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