Europe’s leading airlines and airports have called for a “green recovery” from Covid-19, urging investment in decarbonisation be “at the heart” of the EU’s recovery strategy.

The Airlines for Europe (A4E) group which represents Ryanair, easyJet, Lufthansa, air France-KLM and British Airways and Iberia owner IAG and airports association ACI Europe issued a joint statement warning the challenges of recovering from the coronavirus lockdown “are compounded by the need to meet ambitious climate change goals”.

They urged the EU ensure “aviation climate action” is eligible for funding as part of EU recovery investment funds.

The aviation associations called on Brussels and member states to boost the production and uptake of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) in Europe “through a set of policy measures and public investment plans”, including direct investment in SAF production facilities and the funding of commercial SAF projects.

They also want a green incentive scheme for airlines to replace older aircraft, and increased public funding for Civil Aviation Research & Innovation, for European Air Traffic Management, and in sustainable airport infrastructure.

A4E managing director Thomas Reynaert said: “It’s crucial to accelerate the sustainable transformation of aviation and have European airlines set the example.

“These support measures will help our industry regain its economic viability, paving the way for a more resilient tourism sector.”

Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe director general, said: “Airports have been brought to their knees by this crisis. Our determination to pursue climate action remains robust, but aviation is one of the sectors where decarbonisation is particularly challenging.

“Our ability to invest has been hit hard.”

They said a combination of public and private investment would be “necessary to speed up work to decarbonise the sector”.