Rising use of private jets (most in UK using Luton and Farnborough) sends CO2 emissions soaring

An analysis by campaign group, Transport & Environment, has found that CO2 from private jets in Europe increased by about a third between 2005 and 2019.  Flights that entered or left the UK accounted for nearly a fifth of these emissions, giving the UK the largest share of any European country.  Private jet use continued in 2020.  By August 2020, when the number of commercial flights was about 60% down in the UK, the level of private jet use was almost as high as in 2019.  Of the top ten highest carbon private flight routes that take off or land in Europe (the 27 EU members plus Britain, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) six involved either Luton or Farnborough airports.  The Luton to Teterboro New York route had the  highest private jet emissions, with 565 flights a year, despite a commercial alternative routes between Heathrow and John F Kennedy airport. The private jet sector has grown rapidly, and provides convenience for the very rich, and the ability to reduce personal Covid infection risk at airports, and in crowded planes.  The CO2 emissions from a private jet, with very few passengers, is hugely more per person (5 to 14 times) than on a commercial flight – even first class. The inequity of private jet use, and the huge climate impact, mean the sector should be under the spotlight, especially for the UK in the year it hosts the COP26 talks, in November in Glasgow.


Rising use of private jets sends CO2 emissions soaring

Environmental impact triggers call for ban on fossil-fuel private jets in Europe by 2030

CO2 emissions from private jets in Europe increased by nearly a third (31%) between 2005 and 2019, rising faster than commercial aviation emissions, finds a new report from campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E).

By Eoin Bannon  (T&E)

May 27, 2021

The report,  Private jets: can the super-rich supercharge zero emission aviation?,reveals the climate impact of private jets across Europe. It finds that private jets are 10 times more carbon intensive than airliners on average, and 50 times more polluting than trains.[1]

According to the findings, a four-hour private flight emits as much as the average person does in a year. T&E points out however, that private jet owners, who have an average wealth of €1.3 billion,[2] can be part of the solution – by paying for the development of greener technology that can help accelerate innovation and clean flying for everyone.

The study highlights the continued use of private jets last year despite the pandemic. By August 2020, while most Europeans were still grounded and commercial flights were down 60% year-on-year, private jet traffic had returned to pre-COVID levels. One operator reported an 11.3% increase in private flight sales in July 2020 alone.[3]

Andrew Murphy, Aviation Director at T&E, said: “Flying on a private jet is probably the worst thing you can do for the environment. And yet, super-rich super polluters are flying around like there’s no climate crisis. The upside is that the private jet market is ideally suited to help bring about aviation’s Tesla moment, making hydrogen and electric planes a reality.”

The report also reveals:

  • Seven of the 10 most polluting routes taken by private aircraft within Europe lie on the UK-France-Switzerland-Italy axis.
  • Private jets departing the UK and France are the biggest source of pollution, representing over a third (36%) of private flight emissions in Europe between them.
  • 1 in 10 flights departing France are private jets, half of which travelled less than 500km.

Despite the disproportionate climate impact, private jets are untaxed in most European nations because of exemptions from the EU’s carbon pricing scheme (EU ETS) and untaxed kerosene.

T&E calculates that a jet fuel tax applied proportionately to flight distances could raise €325 million if applied to all flights departing from the EU and UK. The report suggests that revenues raised in this way could be used to accelerate the decarbonisation of the aviation sector.

Andrew Murphy explained: “The good news is these short hops are prime targets for replacement by clean technologies like electric and hydrogen aircraft. European policymakers need to urgently start taxing fossil-fuel powered private jets and ban their use by 2030. The revenues raised from the super-rich could be invested in greener technology that could clean up flying for everyone.”

While the aviation sector is preparing to re-open post-European lockdowns, its environmental impact is under increasing scrutiny. France has recently banned some short-haul internal flights and the UK is developing its own aviation emissions framework, as well as speeding up its target to cut emissions ahead of hosting the G7 Summit in June 2021.

The report makes three recommendations to advance the decarbonisation of the sector and mitigate the disproportionate climate impact that private jet use has:

  1. Hydrogen and electric: By 2030, regulators should only allow the use of green hydrogen or electric aircraft powered for private jet flights under 1,000km within Europe.[4]
  2. Polluter pays: Until a ban in 2030, a combination of an effective price on carbon, jet fuel and flight taxes should be imposed on fossil-fuel private jets, scaled with flight distance and aircraft weight, to account for their disproportionate climate impact.
  3. Alternative transport: Companies and individuals should commit to substantial reduction in private jet use. As new technologies emerge, flights should be prohibited when alternatives exist that do not increase travel time by more than 2hr30.

Notes to editors:

[1] CO2 emitted per passenger-km.

[2] Page 5 – https://www.vistajet.com/globalassets/documents/jettravelerreport.pdf

[3] https://privatejetcardcomparisons.com/2020/08/03/globeair-reports-a-record-busting-july-for-private-jet-flights-in-europe/

[4] T&E calls on regulators to only permit the use of hydrogen or electric aircraft powered with green hydrogen and electricity for private jet flights under 1,000km within Europe by 2030. Large private jet companies should be obligated to enter into power purchase agreements (PPA) with e-kerosene suppliers for all flights.

Read more:

Report: Private jets – can the super-rich supercharge zero emission aviation?




Private jets: can the super rich supercharge zero-emission aviation?


The report’s Executive Summary says:

Executive Summary

Aviation’s climate impact is disproportionate and growing fast. But it is caused by a very small
group of people. Just 1% of people cause 50% of global aviation emissions. This report exposes the outsized role played by the super rich hopping on private jets for super short distances.
European private jet CO2 emissions have soared in recent years, with a 31% increase between 2005 and 2019, faster than commercial aviation emissions. Covid-19 put a temporary halt to that growth, but compared to commercial aviation, it was able to bounce back much quicker.
Whilst most Europeans were still grounded, by August of 2020, the peak time of year for private jet travel, the sector had fully recovered.
Private jets have a disproportionate impact on the environment. In just one hour, a single
private jet can emit two tonnes of CO2. The average person in the EU emits 8.2 tCO2eq over the course of an entire year.
The average private jet owner has a wealth of €1.3bn and France and the UK dominate the
private jet market – flights departing from these states each emit more CO2 than 20 other
European countries combined. In 2019, one tenth of all flights departing from France were with private jets, half of which travelled less than 500km.
In fact, private jets are twice as likely to be used for very short trips (< 500 km) within Europe as compared to flights in commercial aviation. These distances correspond to the operational
range where planes are the least efficient, thereby increasing the climate impact of
such flights.
The private jet sector urgently needs a path to decarbonising. Our report finds that private jets are 5 to 14 times more polluting than commercial planes (per passenger), and 50 times more polluting than trains, a gap which will grow as private jet users move towards aircraft which are bigger and more polluting than their commercial alternatives. High speeds train connections exist on 70/80% of the top 10 most popular private jet routes.
The report also found that private jets are untaxed in most European nations. Private jets are
exempt from the EU ETS, Europe’s carbon pricing scheme. There is no tax on kerosene, not even for domestic flights, and Switzerland is the only European nation to have recently introduced a tax on such flights.
Two factors can boost the sector’s role in decarbonising. The first is wealth – the average private jet owner has a wealth of €1.3bn – meaning they have the resources to fund important decarbonising technologies for the sector, such as new fuels and aircraft.
This wealth should be put on the table for that purpose, with multiple means possible for the wealthy to fund the deployment of Sustainable Advanced Fuels (SAF) and new zero-emissions (ZE) aircraft.
The second factor is that the short haul usage of these jets can become a positive, as such short flights are ideally suited to ZE aircraft. Hydrogen and electric aircraft will, at the start, only carry a small number of passengers short distances – perfect for the world of private jets.
Commercial aviation can be step two for such aircraft, but step one should be mandatory use in the private jet sector.
The use of private jets is receiving increasing critical attention, and this report confirms that
such critical attention is justified. Whether the sector rises to the challenge posed by such
criticism will determine what future it has in Europe and globally.
1) By 2030, regulators should only permit the use of hydrogen or electric aircraft powered
with green hydrogen and electricity for private jet flights under 1,000km within Europe.
Large private jet companies should be obligated to enter into PPA agreements with
e-kerosene suppliers for all flights.
2) Until a ban is in place in 2030, a ticket and fuel tax should be imposed on fossil-fuel
private jets, scaled with flight distance and aircraft weight, to account for their
disproportionate climate impact. We suggest levying a ticket tax on all private flights.