'Ultra-polluting and socially-inequitable': Private jets descend on Davos

'Ultra-polluting and socially-inequitable': Private jets descend on Davos
Throwing climate concerns to the wind. A plush but irresponsible mode of transport. Credit: Unsplash

Fighting climate change is set to be high on the agenda at next week's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Yet many of the politicians and business leaders who attend travel there by private jet, according to an analysis commissioned by Greenpeace.

Over a thousand private jets travelled to and from last year's summit – over four times the usual amount, according to the environmental consultancy CE Delft.

"Europe is experiencing the warmest January ever recorded and communities around the world are grappling with extreme weather events supercharged by the climate crisis," said Klara Maria Schenk, transport campaigner for Greenpeace’s European mobility campaign.

"Meanwhile, the rich and powerful flock to Davos in ultra-polluting, socially-inequitable private jets to discuss climate and inequality behind closed doors. "

The independent consultancy analysed the flights around last year's World Economic Forum and compared the number of flights with private jets. They attributed some 500 flights to conference attendees.

Emissions inequality

The researchers calculated that the private jets caused a total of 9,700 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the emissions of about 350,000 average cars in a week.

Private jets are responsible for many more greenhouse gas emissions per person than their commercial equivalents, which are considerably more fuel efficient per passenger – though still far more polluting than ground-based transport. A report from the European Federation for Transport and Environment found that private jets are "5 to 14 times more polluting than commercial planes per passenger, and 50 times more polluting than trains."

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The aviation sector is responsible for 2.5% of global emissions, according to Our World in Data. According to the UN, just 1% of the world's population is responsible for over half of these emissions.

"Davos has a perfectly adequate railway station, still these people can’t even be bothered to take the train for a trip as short as 21 km," said Schenk. "Do we really believe that these are the people to solve the problems the world faces?"

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