Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
The Dutch government has shelved plans to reduce the number of flights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, bowing to pressure from airlines, the EU and the US government.
The U-turn represented a blow to one of the most high-profile efforts to limit flying on environmental grounds, and came after the Dutch government said the US threatened “countermeasures” against the restrictions on its carriers landing at the hub airport.
Mark Harbers, infrastructure minister, said in a letter to parliament on Tuesday that the decision was a “bitter pill to swallow”. But he added that the government remained “committed to restoring the balance between Schiphol and its living environment”, after the Dutch appeals court in July backed the administration’s flight cap.
Airlines had lobbied furiously against the proposals to reduce the number of flights at the airport by 8 per cent to 460,000 a year at one of Europe’s busiest hubs, which represented the most drastic yet in the EU to tackle noise and pollution caused by the aviation industry.
The push to limit flights was based on the impact of flying on the local community, including aircraft noise and nitrogen dioxide emissions, rather than the wider contribution of flying to global warming.
Yet it became seen as a litmus test of the ability of governments to try to limit flying to tackle climate change.
Senior industry executives privately warned that the Dutch flight cap could be the start of wider moves to constrain growth in flying in Europe.
Harbers said the decision to shelve the cap came after the US Department of Transportation earlier this month issued an order indicating that the capacity reduction “would be unfair, discriminatory and anti-competitive for airlines”.
Harbers warned this order “is the first step in the US taking countermeasures”.
Brussels had also “conveyed serious concerns” about the plan, while the Canadian government had also expressed its own worries, Harbers said.
Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association, said he “welcomed this outbreak of common sense from the Dutch government”.
“Maintaining Schiphol’s capacity is good news for jobs, the economy, traveller choice and convenience, and better trade relations,” he said.
Airlines have pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, chiefly through the use of less polluting fuels.
Schiphol said it was “disappointed . . . as local residents are getting the short end of the stick.”
The airport had previously said it was willing to sacrifice growth in order to become “quieter, cleaner and better”, including proposals for a ban on night flights and private jets.
Additional reporting by Andy Bounds in Brussels