Press release: 5 April 2023

Disappointing Schipol judgment amid backdrop of aviation greenwash

ClientEarth lawyers and Dutch campaigners Fossielvrij have said KLM and other airlines have shown their true colours on the climate crisis, after the airlines today won a lawsuit delaying a flight cap at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

KLM and other airlines had challenged the cap – a temporary measure proposed by the government and supported by the airport to reduce noise and pollution by limiting flights to 460,000 a year from November 2023. Although the airlines’ legal arguments centred on the government’s decision-making process, KLM made several claims about sustainability in their communications regarding the case.

The court outcome means the government will have to withdraw the proposal and conduct a more rigorous decision-making process, after which it may come to the same conclusion and implement a proposed limit of 440,000 flights for 2024-2025.

ClientEarth and Fossielvrij, which are involved in a world-first lawsuit against KLM over its greenwashing, said KLM’s opposition of the cap revealed further cracks in the airline’s climate promises.   

Hiske Arts, campaigner at Fossielvrij, said: “It is a huge disappointment that limiting aviation is being put on the back burner again, when we need to bring aviation to safer levels now, to protect the climate, local residents and nature.

“In its own marketing, KLM pretends to be a climate hero but it has shown its true colours by fighting tooth and nail against climate action. 

“In a fortnight's time, KLM will face us in court to defend its marketing on sustainable flying. KLM is using green publicity to protect its licence to grow. We are going to burst that bubble."

Johnny White, ClientEarth lawyer, said:  “KLM and the aviation industry argued in court that the decision-making process was flawed, but leaned heavily on climate claims in justifying their legal case to the public.

“The furore around the court challenge saw KLM double down on its sustainability claims, like the myths that aviation biofuel or more modern planes will solve the industry’s climate problem. 

“Despite the marketing, the fact the airlines fought to block the cap revealed the industry’s real priority when it comes to curbing their climate impact. The aviation sector is spinning a flawed net zero narrative to cover for its pursuit of industry growth in total contradiction with climate goals.”

KLM will begin defending its marketing against Fossielvrij in the first hearing in the case in the District Court of Amsterdam on April 20.


About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.