4th Jun 2023

Four EU states seek clampdown on private jet travel emissions

  • Private jets can pollute five to 14 times more per passenger than a commercial airline, and 50 times more than trains (Photo: Starr-Environmental)
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EU transport ministers are expected to discuss the environmental impact of private jet travel next week, after four member states raised the issue in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of transport mode for the super-rich, celebrities and VIPs.

"We believe that greater attention must be drawn to this issue at EU level, especially by assessing the possibility of setting up stronger regulatory measures on private jet travel to make sure that everyone contributes their fair share to the overall decarbonisation effort," Austria, France, Ireland and the Netherlands said, in an internal document dated 17 May and seen by EUobserver.

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The four EU countries called to step up "common efforts," stressing that private jets have a "disproportional environmental impact" per passenger kilometre.

Private jets can pollute five to 14 times more per passenger than commercial air travel, and 50 times more than trains, according to the NGO Transport and Environment.

But this transportation method is also controversial because only a few can afford to use it — mainly the super-rich, celebrities and high-ranking politicians.

"This form of air travel has an excessive per capita carbon footprint and has been subject to increased public criticism," the four member states noted.

The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, himself recently came under fire for his recurrent and expensive trips on private jets. Michel's journey to China last November cost €460,000, according to Le Monde.

A preliminary discussion on how to regulate private jets will take place during the upcoming transport ministerial meeting next Thursday (1 June).

"There are so many options… but legal certainty is very important," one EU source said, adding that member states are expected to call on the EU commission for guidance.

Private jet use up 64 percent

Meanwhile, the traffic of private jets in Europe is growing — along with their emissions.

In a recent report, commissioned by the environmental NGO Greenpeace, the Dutch environmental consultancy CE Delft found that the number of private jet travels in Europe increased by 64 percent last year, amounting to a record total of 572,806.

As a result, emissions also skyrocketed in 2022.

According to the report, private jets emit about six tonnes of CO2 on an average flight, equivalent to driving a petrol car for more than 23,000km.

Researchers also found that most private jets departed from France, the UK and Germany for distances under 750km — with Paris-London as the busiest route in Europe. To compare, there are about 14 daily trains running from London to Paris and back, on a journey that takes 2.5 hours.

Civil society previously called on the EU and member states to ban private jets when there are alternative options, tax frequent flyers and end recurrent private jet flying programmes.

Calls for strict EU rules to reduce the carbon footprint of this branch of aviation are also on the rise.

"The climate regulation of private aviation is almost non-existent, which is an absurdity at a time of environmental emergency," said Matteo Mirolo, a campaigner from NGO Transport and Environment told EUobserver.

The EU has proposed a kerosene tax and the mandatory use of sustainable fuels in private jet tanks.

"[But] if the EU is serious about regulating private jets, they should also ban kerosene-guzzling jets after 2035, or if possible, as early as 2030 and make it compulsory for them to fly on 100 percent SAF [sustainable aviation fuel], hydrogen or electricity," Mirolo also said.


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