Private jet flights and emissions have soared in Europe since the pandemic.
A new report commissioned by Greenpeace and conducted by CE Delft, a Dutch environmental consultancy, finds that over 572,000 private flights were recorded in the region last year, producing over 3.3 million metric tons of carbon emissions. From 2020 to 2021, flights nearly tripled and emissions more than quadrupled. From 2021 to 2022, flights increased 1.5 times and emissions more than doubled.
The study’s data set includes the 27 EU nations as well as Norway, Switzerland, and the UK. In total, private flights among the surveyed countries produced a whopping 5.3 million metric tons of carbon emissions from 2020 to 2022.
The countries emitting the most carbon from private flights in 2022 were the UK, France, and Germany. The top offender, the UK, recorded 90,256 private flights last year—equivalent to a private flight taking off every six minutes, according to the Guardian—emitting over 500,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), a polluting greenhouse gas.
The most popular flight paths last year ran between London and Paris, Paris and Geneva (both routes covered by a high-speed train), and London and Nice. But overall, it was short-haul flights ranging from just 251 to 500 km (155 to 310 miles) that were the most numerous across all three years. In 2022, nearly one quarter of all private flights were taken over short distances.
The report lays out a list of train alternatives that could be used instead, including a route between Nice and Cannes that would take around 30 minutes. In the case of one flight path, hopping on a bike may have been more efficient: A route running from Blackbushe and Farnborough in the UK, ranked the most carbon-intensive over the past two years, spans just 7.4 km (4.6 miles), equivalent to a 30 minute bike ride.
Pandemic lockdowns in 2020 forced a drastic reduction in private jet activity, which contributed to an overall reduction in global emissions. These kinds of reductions were going to be difficult to sustain as economic activity returned to pre-pandemic levels, but the study indicates that Europe’s elites are failing to consider less polluting travel alternatives. That complicates the EU’s efforts to reduce emissions by 55% compared with 1990 levels by the next decade.
Greenpeace published a press release today (March 30) calling for a ban on private jets and short-distance flights where a train could be used instead, saying it should be part of an equitable plan to address the climate crisis. Last year, France received the go-ahead from the European Commission to abolish domestic flights shorter than 2.5 hours. Spain has said it wants to end all short-haul flights by 2050, while Germany doubled its tax on short-haul flight tickets in 2022.
Charted: Europe’s rise in private jet use and their CO2 emissions
Private jet emissions report card, by the digits
50x: How much more polluting private jets flights are compared to trains
5-14x: How much more polluting private jets are compared to passenger and commercial flights
2: Metric tons of CO2 private jets can produce per hour, equivalent to consuming 4.6 barrels of oil
1%: World population that produces about 50% of commercial aviation emissions
2%: Global energy-related CO2 emissions produced aviation in 2021
🛩️ A tech founder who didn’t pay employees for months but bought a $16 million private jet has been arrested
🛍️ An Australian MP accused the Hillsong megachurch of using funds for private jet trips and luxury clothes
😶🌫️ Elon Musk’s confusing rationale for suspending @ElonJet