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Private Jets At COP26: The Toxic Cost of Conducting a Climate Conference

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The global leaders gathered in Glasgow last month for COP26, to discuss action on combating climate change. The summit was attended by delegates and leaders of 197 countries. Additionally, it was also attended by various climate activists, public figures, and several business leaders. However, their attendance to the event seems hypocritical considering their extensive use of private jets for transportation to the event.

Environmental Impact of Private Jets

Flights produce greenhouse gases – mainly carbon dioxide (CO2) – from burning fuel. These contribute to global warming. Emissions per kilometre travelled are known to be significantly worse than any other form of transport. But this varies considerably depending on size, occupancy levels and efficiency. Private jets generally produce significantly more emissions per passenger than commercial flights.
If one were to consider the journey from Rome to Glasgow on a private jet – a journey that some of the G20 leaders made to get to COP 26 – that would take around two hours and 45 minutes, requiring 2,356 litres of jet fuel. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), 2.52kg of carbon dioxide is emitted for every litre of aviation turbine fuel burned. Therefore this flight would produce 5.9 tonnes of CO2. However, BEIS recommends that to “capture the maximum climate impact” of flights, CO2 emissions figures should be multiplied by 1.9 to reflect the effect of non-CO2 emissions released by planes at high altitude, which, scientists say, increase the warming effect. Therefore, the total emissions for this flight would be 11.3 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, and with a capacity of nine, each passenger would be responsible for 1.2 tonnes on their journey.
If, however, our world leaders had decided to take a commercial flight from Rome to Glasgow their emissions would have been a quarter of a tonne each. Even though a commercial flight uses more fuel per hour, it is able to fly far more passengers than a private jet and therefore the per capita emissions are much lower. Besides, a huge amount of fuel is used during take off and landing, irrespective of the number of passengers. So not using a private jet can save that which the commercial jet is anyway going to utilise.

Private Jets at COP26

According to the data compiled by WingX, an aviation consultancy, 118 different business jets flew into the airports to drop passengers to attend the COP26 climate conference. Overall, inbound private jets to Glasgow and Edinburgh airports were up 525% on the opening day of the summit compared with the previous seven days.
Those taking private jets to and from COP24 include Jeff Bezos, Prince Charles and Boris Johnson.

Need to Cut-down on Luxurious Living

According to a new study, commissioned by Oxfam, the wealthy would need to cut their emissions by 97% so the world can stay on track to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees, as pledged at the 2015 Paris Agreement.
On one hand, the wealthy and influential people in society are patrons of climate action and sustainable living. They talk about minimalism, conserving energy and reducing emissions. They encourage many others to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. On the other hand, they cannot forego their luxurious lifestyle, putting the planet’s survival in jeopardy. If we are to realistically meet the climate goals, it is time for the wealthy and influential people to walk the talk and embrace sustainability and minimalism.