Greenpeace will take legal action against the Dutch government, accused of bailing out the airline KLM with 3.4 billion of state aid without any ecological counterpart.

In June 2020, the Netherlands announced it would provide aid of €3.4 billion (a loan of €2.4 billion granted by 11 banks, 90% guaranteed by the Dutch state, as well as a direct loan of €1billion) to KLM to help it face the crisis impacting the air transport industry.

When the French state announced it would provide €7 billion aid to KLM‘s counterpart, Air France, a series of ecological conditions were publicly detailed. They included a cut of short-haul routes if a rail alternative exists.

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Caught in the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Air France has to make concessions. As a condition to the state aid granted by France, the airline will have to reduce short-haul routes to only connecting lines if a rail alternative exists.
 

Unlike Air France, the specific conditions for the aid received by KLM were not detailed. “Conditions associated with the direct state loan are linked to the airline becoming more sustainable as well as the restored performance and competitiveness of KLM, including a comprehensive restructuring plan and contributions made by employees,” stated the group in a press release at the time.

Accusing the Netherlands of failing to impose climate conditions in the deal, Greenpeace initiated summary proceedings against the government to force it “to discontinue their bailout”. “The government neglected to make strict agreements for KLM to reduce pollution,” said Dewi Zloch, of Greenpeace Netherlands, in a statement. 

The NGO accuses KLM of operating without any climate plan and demands that the government impose CO2 cap emissions on the carrier. “This emission cap has to be reduced yearly, in order for the major polluter to emit less every year,” explained Zloch. Greenpeace set a deadline to October 1, 2020, for the government to engage in discussions, after which it will proceed with the legal action.

In an interview with public television NPO on September 13, 2020, Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra said he welcomed a possible trial with confidence as the European Commission already judged the aid plan acceptable. On the future of the airline, Hoekstra added that the survival of the Air France-KLM alliance was not set in stone.