Despite the mounting evidence of their damning effect on the planet, the number of private jet flights in Europe is constantly increasing, including in Belgium. While some use it to jet off to London, others use it to travel a mere 10 km.
The "alarming increase in private jet flights" in Belgium was denounced by the environmental organisation Greenpeace, referring to data from a study commissioned by Dutch environmental consultancy CE Delft. Where in 2020 a total of 2,794 flights departed from Belgium, this figure was as high as 10,618 flights in 2022.
“Vulnerable people are on the front lines of climate destruction and are the ones pushed into poverty by spiking fuel prices, but have done the least to cause these crises," Greenpeace EU transport campaigner Thomas Gelin said.
"It’s hugely unfair that rich people can wreck the climate this way, in just one flight polluting more than driving a car 23,000 kilometres." The CO2 emissions from private jets have increased from 6,819 tonnes in 2020 to 40,965 tonnes in 2022.
While the research compares last year's data to that of 2020, a year of decline overall in air traffic, it does confirm a general upward trend in the use of private jets.
However, this was followed by a surge in first-time private jet users in 2021 as they "tried to escape the lockdowns," which saw the a market growth of 6% between 2019 and 2021, while private jet rentals now account for about 17% of European flights, up from 7% in 2019.
Jetting off to Paris, London and... Kortrijk
Belgium ranks eighth in the list of EU countries with the most private flights in 2022. CE Delft calculated that flights by private jets from Belgium emitted 41,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2022, as much as the average annual emissions of 278,310 cars.
The shortest route for which private jets were used was between Kortrijk and Mouscron, a distance of 9.26 km. Some 10 or more such flights are recorded in one year.
Others travel slightly further, with Brussels-Paris (545 flights) and Brussels-Geneva (407 flights) being among the most popular. Last year, the most frequently used route by the country's wealthiest and their jets was between Brussels and London (647 flights).
Within Belgium, some 204 domestic flights were recorded between Brussels and Antwerp, whose airports are separated by some 40 kilometres, while 239 private jets travelled the Kortrijk-Lille route, for a flight of 27.8 km. A total of 62 flights were recorded on the Liege-Maastricht route of 37 km.
"This is luxury travel by rich people who give the middle finger to current and future generations who are already feeling the impact of the climate crisis and will feel it even more in the future. Private jets often do routes that are perfectly doable by train," Joeri Thijs, Greenpeace Belgium's spokesperson, said.
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Greenpeace is therefore calling for the EU and national governments to ban private jets as part of a plan to tackle the climate crisis, and for restrictions on commercial short-haul flights. It is also urging governments to make train travel more attractive, both in terms of price and service.
Greenpeace also wants Belgium to advocate for a European ban on private jets, as seen in France. In December, France got the green light from the European Commission to cancel flights by private jets for which trains offer good alternatives in less than two and a half hours.