Private jets to COP26 emit more carbon than Scots burn through in a year
About 13,000 tonnes of CO2 were released by more than 400 private jets carrying world leaders and business executives to The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), estimated Sunday Mail.
The number was said to exceed the emissions of 1,600 average Scots for a year. Several news outlets already claimed the flights to the conference as ‘rank climate hypocrisy’ and ‘nadir of carbon inequality’.
COP26, which took place in Glasgow, United Kingdom, on Oct 31-Nov 12, served as a crucial opportunity to achieve pivotal, transformational change in global climate policy and action. It was a credibility test for international efforts to address climate change.
Parties must make considerable progress to reach a consensus on issues they have been discussing for several years.
The convention has near-universal membership (197 Parties). The parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Agreement aims to keep the global average temperature rise this century as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
However, with the 13,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions from the flights to this year’s convention, it was hard not to question these leaders’ seriousness in taking the pledge.
The report cited the Transport and Environment campaigner Matt Finch, who stated that taking private jets was the worst way to travel by miles and was terrible for the environment. He explained that the average private jet emitted two tonnes of CO2 for every hour in a flight.
“Our research has found that most journeys could easily be completed on scheduled flights. Private jets are very prestigious, but it is difficult to avoid the hypocrisy of using one while claiming to be fighting climate change, said Finch.
“To put it in context, the total carbon footprint of an ordinary citizen – including everywhere they travel and everything they consume – is around eight tonnes a year. So an executive or politician taking one long haul private flight will burn more CO2 than several ordinary people do in a year.
The Labour Nett Zero spokeswoman Monica Lennon was also quoted in the report, saying: “Flying by private jet while claiming to care passionately about tackling the climate emergency is rank climate hypocrisy.”
She believed that the action went against what these national leaders told people about what they should be doing and stated that they should be leading by example.
She, however, agreed that exceptions should be given in a situation where one did not have other options, such as delegates who were travelling from places where scheduled flights were unavailable.
“How can anyone using a private jet tell an ordinary family they should be taking the train rather than flying on holiday?” she questioned.
COP26 guide encourages private flights
Joe Biden and Boris Johnson were among the world leaders criticised for flying on private jets to the convention. Biden’s Air Force One, used by the US President’s entourage to travel worldwide, also arrived in Edinburgh for the summit.
Johnson, criticised for his flight from London to Cornwall for the G7 Summit in June, was said to have taken a ‘green flight’ to the conference. The plane used by the UK Prime Minister was powered by Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) – biofuels from plants or waste, which activists believed might have been mixed with a high percentage of traditional fuel.
According to Euronews, a protest was carried out by the Extinction Rebellion (XR) in Farnborough Airport. The group sought the government to end the polluting flights chartered by the world’s elites. However, an official COP26 guide for delegates seemed to not be in the protestors’ favour as it listed the private airport as one of the ports for COP26 participants’ arrival.
Pointing out the irony, climate campaigner at Global Justice Now, Daniel Willis, was quoted in the report, saying: “Boris Johnson claims to be a climate leader, but he only seems interested in a COP26 that protects the interests of the wealthiest.”
He shared that many activists from frontline communities faced endless visa and vaccination delays, which prevented them from getting to COP26. Yet, the British government seemed to encourage delegates to fly in on climate-busting private jets.
“It’s shameless pandering to the rich and will only lead to an exclusive, one-sided COP that marginalises the global south,” said Willis.
The report stated that it was unlikely for COP26 attendees to achieve such an inspiring story as Greta Thunberg’s epic 14-day journey to the UN Climate Action Summit in New York in 2019. The Swedish activist travelled across the Atlantic and set the bar high for sustainable travel.
The report acknowledged some security concerns that might arise for world leaders and made private flights the only feasible option. However, it questioned the message implied by the official COP26 guide, which listed private airports for all delegates.
The organisers, however, shared that they already encouraged all delegates to consider low-carbon travel options and advised on the use of train travel.
A COP26 spokesperson said: “If we are to deliver for our planet, we need all countries and civil society to bring their ideas and ambition to Glasgow. Sustainability is at the core of COP26. The UK will be offsetting all carbon emissions associated with running the event and working closely with sustainability experts to do so.”
Meanwhile, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of the United Kingdom, Liz Truss, in a video, defended the use of private planes to COP26, claiming that the world leaders had to come up with some tough decisions and negotiation. Hence the face-to-face approach during the conference was critical. — @Green