climate row | 

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary accuses Eamon Ryan of ‘running around like a drunken tourist’

Mr O’Leary is pushing EU ministers, who are meeting next week, to agree to spread the pain of climate taxes evenly.

Michael O'Leary© PA

Michael O'Learty pictured in Dublin. Photo: PA© PA

Caroline O'

RYANAIR chief executive Michael O’Leary has accused Minister Eamon Ryan of “running around Sharm El-Sheikh like a drunken tourist” with his proposal to increase climate taxes on flying.

The airline boss said it was a remarkable proposal from a transport minister of an island when the only way off it was by plane.

Mr O’Leary is pushing EU ministers, who are meeting next week, to agree to spread the pain of climate taxes evenly.

Flights out and in of the EU, and transfers using EU airports, are exempt from the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) while flights within Europe carry the full burden.

Mr O’Leary said he believed no minister could justify the current imbalance in the ETS and he took particular aim at Eamon Ryan, who holds the transport, environment and climate action portfolios.

Mr Ryan attended the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt last month where he said aviation and other high carbon polluting industries should be levied to help pay for climate-related disasters in poor countries.

The idea influenced the final agreement on loss and damage at the summit which emphasises finding innovative ways of generating finance for vulnerable nations.

Michael O'Learty pictured in Dublin. Photo: PA© PA

Mr O’Leary told a press conference yesterday, however, that the Minister should be doing more to protect European airlines.

“Eamon Ryan doesn’t speak to us. He is our minister for transport but his last contribution in this debate was in Sharm El-Sheikh two weeks ago where he was running around like a drunken tourist calling for higher levies on aviation,” he said.

“For a minister for transport of an island on the periphery of Europe [that] is remarkable.

“We don’t expect him to be running around Sharm El-Sheikh calling for exemptions for aviation - we expect to pay our fair share.

“But the minimum we think he should be doing is calling for the extension of ETS to long-haul flights and to the transfer traffic around Europe so that all European citizens and the very rich visitors we welcome here from the Middle Eastern airlines and from America are making a fair contribution.”

However a spokesperson for Minister Ryan last night said that he had met with company representatives just yesterday to hear their concerns.

The press conference was held jointly with Brussels-based climate campaign group, Transport & Environment, which with Mr O’Leary acknowledged he usually disagreed.

The group, however, is firmly behind a move by the European Parliament to make long-haul flight operators pay up under the ETS.

It is calling for the Council of Ministers and European Commission, which have resisted the proposal, to agree to it when they meet with European Parliament members in ‘trilogue’ talks next week.

“We think our transport minister here in Ireland should be joining forces with Ryanair, with Transport & Environment at next week’s trilogue instead of wittering on about more levies on aviation, particularly when the only way to get off the island is aviation,” Mr O’Leary said.

It was pointed out to him that global climate campaigner and chair of The Elders, former Irish president Mary Robinson, a major presence at the summit, kickstarted the discussion on aviation levies there.

“To be fair to her, she is largely retired. I’d rather address my comments to the minister for transport,” he said.

Mr Ryan declined to comment on O’Leary’s remarks about his work at Sharm El-Sheikh.

Regarding his position on extending the ETS to long-haul flights, his spokesperson said aviation emissions were a global problem and the EU was working on finding “an effective global solution”.

International flights were currently part of the separate CORSIA scheme aimed at reducing airline emissions and most EU member states were in favour of that arrangement.

However, the spokesperson added: “The scope of ETS forms part of the trilogue negotiations which are ongoing.”

Earlier yesterday Ryanair announced an agreement with oil and gas company Shell to speed up the development and production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for the company’s fleet.

Mr O’Leary said his aim was to have 12.5pc of airline fuel needs met buy SAF by 2030 and for the company to be carbon neutral by 2050.

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