Written by Brad Plumer and Hiroko Tabuchi
The coronavirus outbreak is pushing the world’s airlines toward financial crisis — and that is starting to complicate efforts to tame airlines’ greenhouse gas emissions, which had been growing rapidly in recent years.
Even though, in the short term, airlines have seen a sharp decline in air travel, and therefore emissions, demand is widely expected to bounce back eventually as the world resumes its embrace of flying. But in the meantime, the airline industry, an increasingly important contributor of planet-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is citing the financial pain caused by the heath scare as reason to weaken longer-term efforts to fight global warming.
At least one major carrier, Air France-KLM, has cited the virus in calling for European countries to delay upcoming policies designed to curb air travel and reduce emissions. “In view of the coronavirus outbreak, we are asking governments to suspend the introduction of new flight taxes,” Benjamin Smith, the airline’s chief executive, said at the Airlines4Europe conference in Brussels on Tuesday.
“We definitely don’t need new taxes right now. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to burden airlines and passengers with higher prices,” said Jennifer Janzen, a spokeswoman for Airlines4Europe, which represents 16 airline companies. “Environmental taxes are just going to make this bad situation even worse.”
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