Hypocrisy in the air at COP26: More than 200 private jets so leaders can talk emissions
Leaders and delegates are accused of contributing to a ‘climate disaster’ by using hundreds of private jets to descend on Glasgow, as well as helicopters and motorcades
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spent days telling world leaders to stop “quilting the Earth in a suffocating blanket of CO2” and to “get real” about their responsibilities to the planet.
So the delegates at the COP26 climate summit are entitled to raise an eyebrow at the news that their host will fly back to London by private jet when he leaves the conference in Glasgow later this week.
The 640-km train journey from Glasgow to London takes just four and a half hours, but Downing Street said Johnson had “significant time constraints,” which meant the train was not an option.
The prime minister was accused of sending “completely the wrong message” on climate action, as private aircraft emit between 10 and 60 times as much carbon dioxide per passenger as scheduled flights, and up to 140 times as much as a diesel-powered train.
It came after other world leaders and delegates had been accused of contributing to a “climate disaster” by using hundreds of private jets to descend on Glasgow, as well as helicopters and motorcades.
Well over 200 private aircraft are expected to land during the 13-day summit, though one estimate suggests the figure could be as high as 400.
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Small executive jets emit 10 times more greenhouse gases per passenger than scheduled flights, taking just six hours to generate as much CO2 as the average person does in a year. Environmental campaigners have reacted with fury, saying many of the journeys could have been undertaken on regular passenger aircraft, or even by train in some cases.
“Private jets are a disaster for the climate. A single one-hour private flight emits two tons of carbon emissions, which is a quarter of the carbon produced by the average European in a whole year,” said Helena Bennett, senior policy adviser at Green Alliance.
Around 30,000 delegates representing 197 countries are visiting Glasgow over the next two weeks, all of whom had a chance to set an example by using the most environmentally friendly form of transport available to them.
However, almost every national leader is using private aircraft, which carry far fewer passengers than commercial flights, making their environmental impact proportionately higher.
U.S. President Joe Biden is thought to be the worst offender, as Air Force One and the four other large jets that accompany him will generate almost 1,000 tons of CO2 during his round-trip to Europe.
In addition, the president travelled from Edinburgh airport to the summit in Glasgow in a motorcade of 22 cars, creating around four tons of CO2 for the150-km round trip.