The private jet industry has exploded in popularity during the pandemic, offering incredible convenience for those who can afford it. But that popularity has made it a target for climate activists. Private jets come under attack.
On Thursday, November 10, protests against private jets, their operators and, of course, their wealthy clients took place at airports around the world. Climate activists in 13 countries protested against private jets that day, with some chaining themselves to airport fences, according to NBC News. At least 15 people were arrested.
Why a private jet? NBC, which sounded more like an advocate than a news organization, claimed, “Activists target private jets because they represent the contribution of the ultra-rich — and their lifestyles — to global greenhouse gas emissions .”
The protesters received little attention in the US media. Anti-oil protesters who glued themselves to masterpieces of art appear to have run out of oxygen.
Still, private jets, seen as toys for the rich, have become the target of the “billionaire’s tears” crowd. A study by Oxfam claims a billionaire produces a million times more emissions than the average person.
Meanwhile, “let ’em eat cake” comments like “your plane is still mine” and Kardashian’s 17-minute flight burned a pointless hole in the atmosphere have given the industry little credit. come any good.
We asked executives at three private jet companies for comment. But no one has come forward to defend the industry, worth an estimated $27.54 billion in 2019. It provided 2.15 million private charter flights in 2020, often when commercial aircraft were grounded due to COVID. In an era of shortages, the private jet industry is a conduit for commercial pilots, with 15,500 of the world’s 22,000 business jets in North America.
However, neither industry insiders nor celebrity jet owners such as Overy, John Travolta, Jackie Chan and Jay-Z have remained silent. “It’s outrageous that Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates can fly their private jets tax-free while the global community is starving,” said Gianluca Grimalda of Scientist Rebellion. Few celebrities want to be branded a “climate criminal,” Especially in the face of the “eat the rich” rhetoric.
Anti-aircraft protests have been held across the US, as well as in Milan, Stockholm, Amsterdam’s Schiphol and two airports in London. In the United States, anti-private jet protests took place at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles, Boeing Field in Seattle, and Wilson Terminal at Charlotte International Airport.
Activist groups Extinction Rebellion, Scientists Rebellion and Guardian Rebellion are behind the protests. In 2019, Extinction Rebellion plans to shut down London’s Heathrow Airport with drones. That year they blocked access to Farnborough Airport, the UK’s largest private airport and home to one of the most popular airshows in the world. Also in 2019, the first draft of the US Green New Deal proposed banning passenger planes in favor of trains.
This year, at Van Nuys Airport, a handful of protesters showed up holding signs. “Make polluters pay,” wrote one. “Private jets banned,” read another. Another protester held up a cutout of a jet that read, “Private jets are 10 times more carbon-intensive than commercial jets.” Others chain themselves to the fence.
The NIMBYs on the Van Nuys flight path near me might offer moral support as they constantly complain about aircraft noise and pollution.
“The rich are burning the planet, and the damage is irreversible,” said climate scientist Peter Kalms, who was arrested at the Charlotte protests. “We have to stop them. Banning private jets would be a start.”
If it weren’t for the nature of the rhetoric, it would be easy to joke that the ultimate goal of such protests is to force the wealthy to fly commercially. Perhaps the appropriate punishment for private jet clients is to force them to fly economy class, an option the late Prince Philip called “terrible”.
But the stakes are much higher. Private jets, which can emit up to 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide during an hour-long flight, are particularly vulnerable as “climate disruptors”. Alternative energy sources may be five to ten years away, and sustainable aviation fuel, which has a lower environmental impact, currently costs eight times as much as kerosene.
Meanwhile, young jet-setting celebrities such as Taylor Swift, the No. 1 private jet emitter, and Kylie Jenner, the 17-minute flight from Camarillo to Van Nuys, have nothing to say about the private jet industry. any good.
How effective are the protests in crippling the $28 billion private jet industry? Hard to say. But only Greta Thunberg has managed to demonize Europe’s use of gas and nuclear power, driving up energy costs across the continent.
In the US, California Governor Gavin Newsom has banned the sale of gasoline-powered cars until 2035. Meanwhile, the state restricted oil drilling, restricted refineries and raised gasoline taxes above $1.50 a gallon, resulting in gasoline prices still the highest in the U.S. at almost $6 a gallon.
Will the protesters succeed? In the short term, unlikely. They are taking on an industry beloved by the rich and powerful. Who has the power to “ban” private jets?
But the rumble could turn into a roar. A state like California could easily decide to lower acceptable levels of noise and carbon emissions from private jets. Like it or not, the aviation industry must learn how to justify its existence.