Give everyone who can afford it their climate-neutral private jet

Private jet flights accounted for 56 kilotons of CO2 emissions in the first nine months of 2022, research by CE Delft on behalf of Greenpeace shows. The environmental organization calls for a European ban on private jets. But that would be a missed opportunity, argues Thijs ten Brinck van Wattissustainable.nl.

With the 56 kilotons, private planes to and from Schiphol and Rotterdam The Hague Airport already exhaled more CO2 by the end of September than in all of 2019, the last year before the covid pandemic temporarily dampened wanderlust. That growth does not look good for the climate. Anyone who flies a private plane also produces five to seven times more CO2 emissions than someone traveling the same distance on a scheduled plane, shoulder to shoulder with all ordinary people.

Almost no one has a private jet

Greenpeace has a perfect recipe for painless posturing. Many people fly, but almost no one flies privately. Almost everyone can therefore be indignant about people flying in private jets. Such as top people from Shell and Talpa, ministers, Nikkie Plessen and Max Verstappen.

The Eemshaven power plant, the Netherlands’ largest coal-fired power plant, emits 60 kilotons of CO2 in two days at full capacity. That’s a lot of CO2, so the 56 kiloton private pilots are also a lot of CO2. On the other hand, all private flights to and from Schiphol and Rotterdam needed no less than 270 days to emit as much CO2 as a coal-fired power station on a peak weekend. Banning private aircraft, as Greenpeace wants, therefore naturally results in a measurable CO2 reduction, but at the same time only makes a limited contribution to our overall climate task.

Half a percent of the total

A ban on private flights does not do much for Dutch aviation’s climate task either. The total emissions from Dutch aviation in 2019 were 12,300 kilotons, 220 times more than the CO2 from private jets alone.

Of course, it would nevertheless be nice if regional managers made video calls to Shell’s UK headquarters. Of course, it would be nice if Verstappen came from Monaco to Zandvoort by express train. But like climate-conscious people on scheduled flights, top executives from Shell and Max Verstappen always have their reasons for taking the plane anyway.

A European ban on private jets would be a missed opportunity

An important difference between scheduled flights and private flights is the price per passenger. Owning or leasing a private jet is an unusually expensive hobby. Anyone who spends that much money on comfort, speed, privacy, safety and prestige laughs even more to maintain the comfort and speed, privacy, safety and prestige of private jets.

Instead of lucky few take their toys, you can take lucky few also oblige them to switch to even more expensive and more durable toys. If Red Bull gives Verstappen wings on fossil petroleum, Red Bull can undoubtedly also give Verstappen wings on 100 percent bio-petroleum or hydrogen.

Expensive short flights with small planes are ideal

In its urge to make a fuss, Greenpeace eagerly emphasizes that 35 percent of private jets are shorter than 500 kilometers. It would indeed be possible by train, but of course Verstappen and Nikkie Plessen will not. And it doesn’t have to. The first electric plane that can reach 500 kilometers on a full battery is almost available. When private pilots purchase the first expensive aircraft, a budget is created to reduce the cost of subsequent aircraft and increase range.

We mortals should not have private flyers to sit on the train with us. That would be a missed opportunity. Precisely if the few people for whom money is not an issue are obliged to switch to climate-neutral flying, it will drive developments that will make sustainable flying possible for everyone later this century. It’s a shame that fuss is being made: anyone who thinks it’s important to control climate change will give anyone who can afford it a climate-neutral private jet.

This article was written by Thijs ten Brinck, founder of Wattiduurzaam.nl.

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