118 Private Jets Take Leaders To COP26 Climate Summit Burning Over 1,000 Tons Of CO2

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COP26 attendees’ jets parked at Edinburgh Airport.


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As the COP26 climate conference opened on Monday (1 November), 50 private jets landed at Glasgow and Edinburgh airports, ferrying their passengers to one of the most critical environmental summits in history.

In the run-up to the event, 118 different business jets flew into the airports, according to data compiled by WingX, an aviation consultancy. Overall, inbound private jets to Glasgow and Edinburgh airports were up 525% on the opening day of the summit compared with the previous seven days.

Those taking private jets to and from COP24 include Jeff Bezos, Prince Charles and Boris Johnson, who was criticized for flying back to London to attend a dinner on Wednesday evening. Others made an exit to Cannes in the South of France, and Bern in Switzerland, according to flights tracked by FlightRadar24.

Private jets are, by far, the most inefficient way to travel, and many have pointed out the hypocrisy of turning up to a summit on climate change on something that is contributing to its very cause.

Flying a private jet between Glasgow and Rome, where many leaders were previously attending the G20 summit, emits roughly six tons of CO2 per flight, though estimates vary according to aircraft and weight.

If all 118 private jets at COP26 flew an average of three hours to and from the event that would put the combined carbon emitted by the 118 private jets at over 1,400 tons.

“Our research has found that most journeys could easily be completed on scheduled flights. Private jets are very prestigious but it is difficult to avoid the hypocrisy of using one while claiming to be fighting climate change,” says Matt Finch, U.K. policy manager at the Transport and Environment campaign group.

The Bombardier Challenger 600 was the most popular jet for attending the COP26 climate summit in … [+] Glasgow, U.K.


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Not all private jets are so polluting, however. Prince Charles only agreed to fly on a private jet between Rome and Glasgow when it was agreed that sustainable fuel would be used in the plane. Boris Johnson’s flight to London used “partly sustainable fuel” according to his spokesperson.

Private jets are unable to burn 100% sustainable fuels, which are normally made from biofuels. However, manufacturers, such as Boom Supersonic and Rolls Royce, are developing jet engines to burn 100% sustainable fuels.

The high visibility of private jets at the COP26 summit created a lot of negative headlines for the industry, says Richard Koe, managing director of WingX. “The [business aviation] industry will be nervous of any repeat of the decade-long toxic optics which appeared to follow Obama’s criticism of the auto executives’ use of private jets back in 2008.”

‘Luxury Carbon Consumption’ Of The 1% Jeopardizes Paris Agreement

This criticism around private jets comes as new research shows the luxury lifestyles of the richest 1% could jeopardize targets to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Per capita, the richest 80 million people in the world will account for 16% of total emissions globally by 2030, up from 13% in 1990.

The study, commissioned by Oxfam, says the wealthy would need to cut their emissions by 97% so the world can stay on track to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees, as pledged at the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Of the richest one percent, wealthy Chinese are set to become the most polluting, followed by those in the U.S., says the study, which was carried out by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

“To close the emissions gap by 2030, it is necessary for governments to target measures at their richest, highest emitters,” says Tim Gore, author of the report and head of the Low Carbon and Circular Economy program at IEEP. This should include measures to constrain the “luxury carbon consumption” of private jets and space travel.

A Blue Origin rocket lifts-off carrying Jeff Bezos into space.


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The carbon emissions of an 11-minute space flight are estimated to be at least 75 tons, according to a report by Lucas Chancel, a fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations. By comparison, the poorest people in the world emit less than one ton of carbon per year.

Sustainable fuels and technology alone will not reduce the carbon footprint of the world’s wealthiest. The report makes clear that lifestyles themselves have to change. That starts with not flying to a climate conference on a private jet.

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