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Rising use of private jets sends CO2 emissions soaring
Emissions of CO2 from private jets in Europe increased by nearly a third (31%) between 2005 and 2019, rising faster than commercial aviation emissions, according to a new report from Transport & Environment (T&E). The study also claims that private jets are 10 times more carbon intensive than airliners on average, and 50 times more polluting than trains on a passenger/km basis.
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.
T&E notes that private jets are untaxed in most European nations because of exemptions from the EU’s carbon pricing scheme (EU ETS) and untaxed kerosene. It calculates that a jet fuel tax applied proportionately to flight distances could raise €325mn 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.
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:
- By 2030, regulators should only allow the use of green hydrogen or electric aircraft powered for private jet flights under 1,000 km within Europe.
- 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.
- 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 2 hr 30 mins.