The symbols of climate and social inequality continue to take flight. Private jets, so loved by the wealthy for their travels and opposed by those who fight to cut emissions, are increasingly used in Europe and Italy: in 2022 alone, more than 572,000 flights were registered in the Old Continent with an increase by 64% compared to the previous year and our country is in fourth place among those that use them the most. This is what emerges from a report released today by Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) which indicates that in Europe the emissions produced by private jets have more than doubled in just one year, exceeding those produced annually by 550,000 European citizens. Figures that Greenpeace shows in the aftermath of a new controversy relating to these expensive means of transport: even the heads of European institutions – according to Politico – use them more frequently, even to reach the headquarters of the main summits on the world’s climate future, such as the Conferences of the Parties on Climate (COP).
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For example, the trips of the President of the EU Council, Charles Michel, ended up under the magnifying glass, who allegedly used private jets for about 72 trips, 64% of those made between 2019 and 2022, flights also to get to Glasgow where in 2021 the COP26 was held, or to reach Egypt at the COP27, accompanied by the president of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Given that a private jet can emit up to two tons of carbon dioxide per hour, it is easy to imagine the environmental impact of these flights compared, for example, to the average European citizen whose ecological footprint is worth about 7 tons of CO2 over the course of a year. Michel defended himself by recalling that he compensates for emissions through other programs, but the question of the use and emissions of jets continues to generate controversy.
In Italy private jets increased by 61%
In Italy where for months the collective “Jet dei rich” has been denouncing the growth in the use of private planes on social media, even launching an appeal to President Giorgia Meloni to tax their kerosene, the use of these aircraft that few can afford it is constantly growing. According to the Greenpeace report, Italy ranks fourth in the ranking of European countries by number of private jet flights with 55,624 flights in 2022. Those taking off from Italian airports increased by 61% compared to 2021 and last year caused 266,100 tons of CO2, practically double compared to the previous one and equal to the annual average of carbon dioxide emissions of 50,208 residents in Italy. Not only that, if you look at the last three years (2020-2022) private jets taking off from Italian airports have caused 420,400 tons of CO emissions2 and it emerges that one flight out of ten in Europe took off from Italy, above all from Milan Linate, Rome Ciampino and Olbia Costa Smeralda. The most popular route is also impressive, the Milan-Rome one and vice versa which can be covered by train in about three hours. To say: in France the aim is to ban even commercial flights between cities that can be reached in a few hours by train. Another short route among the busiest in Europe is Milan-Nice (among those shorter than 500 km) and the one which in 2022 counted 10 or more private jet flights was Verona-Brescia, cities which are connected by train just thirty-five minutes.
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In Europe, planes are also used for short distances
In the analysis that Greenpeace commissioned from the Dutch environmental consultancy CE Delft, it also appears that 55% of private aircraft flights made in Europe in 2022 “travelled a distance of less than 750 km, in many cases feasible with more sustainable alternatives such as the train”. Three of the most common destinations, Nice, Paris and Geneva and the European countries with the highest number of flights were respectively United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy. “While Europe and Italy are grappling with a terrible drought, the alarming growth of private flights is in total contrast to the alarms of the scientific community, according to which CO emissions must be reduced immediately2 to avoid a climate catastrophe” explains Federico Spadini, Transport campaign of Greenpeace Italia. “The latest IPCC report clearly shows that we must immediately reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, starting from the most superfluous ones such as those of private jets, pollutants that must be banned to protect the climate, the environment and our health”.
A petition to ban them
Taking into account that private jets cause on average emissions between 5 and 14 higher than commercial flights and over 50 times more than a train journey, requests from environmental groups are growing to put a stop to the use of these means. Paradoxically, in addition to being used to reach the major climate conferences, they are also the most popular aircraft for arriving at the WEF in Davos, the Economic Forum which in recent years has had finance and climate issues at its centre. “The richest and most powerful people on the planet meet in Davos and go there using the most unfair and polluting form of transport: private jets” recalls Spadini. Out of over 1000 jets that flew into Davos during WEF 2022, over 50% were on short haul routes (under 750km). Numbers that make it clear how much these polluted privileges can also impact in terms of social and climatic inequalities given that 80% of people in the world have never traveled by plane. Also for this reason, always remembering that there are sustainable alternatives, Greenpeace has launched a petition to ask the Italian government to promote concrete measures against the energy and climate crisis “including the ban on private jets and the introduction of the climate ticket for a more sustainable and accessible public”.