A ban on private jets has been ruled out by the EU Transport Commission, in what campaigners say is “another missed opportunity” to limit “luxury emissions”.
At a gathering of EU transport ministers yesterday (1 June) a coalition of EU nations led by Austria, France and the Netherlands urged the bloc to tighten its rules around business aviation.
But EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean said she has “no intention” to propose new measures aimed at private jets before the end of the Commission’s mandate next year.
“This is another missed opportunity to target the unfair luxury emissions of the super-rich,” says Magdalena Heuwieser, spokesperson for Stay Grounded - a global network of more than 200 organisations seeking to reduce air traffic.
“But no need to wait for the EU level to ban private jets. As the success in Amsterdam shows, bans can also be implemented at airport - as well as country - level."
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is planning to stop private jet flights at certain times of day in a bid to reduce emissions from 2025. France, which recently banned short-haul domestic flights, is also looking to squeeze private jet travel through heavy taxation and restrictions.
However some member states argue it is important to introduce new private jet measures at a European level.
Which countries are calling for a ban on private jets?
Ahead of the Transport Council meeting on Thursday, Austria, France, and the Netherlands penned a joint letter to EU climate chief Frans Timmermans and the Transport Commissioner making their views clear.
“This form of air travel has an excessive per capita carbon footprint and is therefore rightfully subject to criticism,” ministers from the three nations wrote.
“In view of this, recent calls for action such as establishing bans on private jet travel are understandable and need to be addressed appropriately.”
Private jets are five to 14 times more polluting than commercial planes on a per passenger basis, the Transport and Environment NGO calculates - and 50 times more polluting than trains.
Despite the severe impacts of rising CO2 in the atmosphere, the industry doesn’t appear to be self-regulating. Private jet traffic over Europe soared by 64 per cent last year, according to data from Dutch environmental consultancy CE Delft.
“Our citizens would not be able to understand if a minority using private jets would be able to use these planes without any limitations, with a disproportionate impact on the climate,” said Belgian mobility minister Georges Gilkinet.
Belgium’s deputy PM is also backing a European-wide ban on short-haul flights, following France’s example.
Ireland’s transport minister Jack Chambers gave a more cautious endorsement to tougher rules.
“All reasonable options” should be explored to ensure that private jets “make their full contribution to our climate goals,” he said.
Which European countries are defending private jet travel?
The EU’s 27 member states were far from unanimous on private jet emissions, one of a number of issues discussed at the meeting in Luxembourg.
Germany favours market measures with the country’s transport minister Volker Wissing saying the bloc’s aviation carbon market is the best tool for tackling all aviation emissions.
Malta, meanwhile, warned that strict regulation could disproportionately impact the island nation’s economic development.
“One must keep in mind that business aviation can also serve as an important transportation link in states where, like Malta, options for business transportation are limited,” said Maltese transport minister Aaron Farrugia.
The small country saw the third highest number of private flights per capita last year, CE Delft's report revealed.
Responding to Commissioner Vălean’s stated preference to tackle aviation as a whole, rather than private jets specifically, Heuwieser counters “Let’s do both.”
"Private jets are the pinnacle of climate injustice - no one will miss them except some ultra-rich, and it would be an important sign for the general public,” she says.
“We know that flights in general are very unfairly distributed. 1 per cent of the world population causes 50 per cent of all aviation emissions, while 80 per cent have never set foot on an airplane.”
Alongside other organisations in the climate movement, Stay Grounded is calling for a frequent flyer levy to target all excessive flights in a “just way”.