Private jets: can the super-rich supercharge zero-emission aviation?

Aviation’s climate impact is disproportionate and growing fast. But it is caused by a very small group of people. Just 1% of people cause 50% of global aviation emissions. This report exposes the outsized role played by the super rich hopping on private jets for super short distances.

European private jet CO2 emissions have soared in recent years, with a 31% increase between 2005 and 2019, faster than commercial aviation emissions. Covid-19 put a temporary halt to that growth, but compared to commercial aviation, it was able to bounce back much quicker. 

Private jets have a disproportionate impact on the environment. In just one hour, a single private jet can emit two tonnes of CO2. The average person in the EU emits 8.2 tCO2eq over the course of an entire year.

In 2019, one tenth of all flights departing from France were with private jets, half of which travelled less than 500km. In fact, private jets are twice as likely to be used for very short trips (< 500 km) within Europe as compared to flights in commercial aviation.

Our report finds that private jets are 5 to 14 times more polluting than commercial planes (per passenger), and 50 times more polluting than trains, a gap which will grow as private jet users move towards aircraft which are bigger and more polluting than their commercial alternatives.

1) By 2030, regulators should only permit the use of hydrogen or electric aircraft powered with green hydrogen and electricity for private jet flights under 1,000km within Europe. Large private jet companies should be obligated to enter into PPA agreements with e-kerosene suppliers for all flights.

2) Until a ban is in place in 2030, a ticket and fuel tax should be imposed on fossil-fuel private jets, scaled with flight distance and aircraft weight, to account for their disproportionate climate impact. We suggest levying a ticket tax on all private flights departing from Europe, at rates similar to those implemented by Switzerland, i.e. at least €3000. This would raise several hundreds of million euros, which should be ring fenced to help fund the development of the new aviation technologies.

3) Pending the development of these new technologies, companies and individuals should commit to substantial reduction in private jet use.