UK is Europe’s worst private jet polluter, study finds
The UK is the private jet capital of Europe, with more flights than anywhere else on the continent, analysis has found.
Last year, a private jet set off from the UK once every six minutes, putting the country ahead of the rest of Europe when it comes to the extremely polluting form of travel. Many of these journeys have been called “polluting and pointless” by Greenpeace, as they are so short they could have easily been taken by train – and in one case, cycled in 30 minutes.
The analysis by the Dutch environmental consultancy CE Delft also found that the number of private jets taking off from the UK increased by 75% between 2021 and 2022 to 90,256 flights, emitting 500,000 tonnes of CO2 – more than in any other European country.
The UK tops all league tables for private jets, boasting the busiest route, the most polluting route and the most flights overall. Flights between London and Paris were the most popular route, accounting for 3,357 flights, and six of the top 10 routes overall also included London.
According to a Transport & Environment study, private jets are five to 14 times more polluting than commercial planes per passenger, and 50 times more polluting than trains. Previous research found that 50% of all aviation emissions were caused by 1% of the world’s population.
The use of private jets appears to be rising. The research found that private jet traffic across Europe rose from 350,000 flights in 2021 to more than 570,000 in 2022, with a heavy impact on emissions. The associated CO2 emissions more than doubled over the same period to more than 3.3m tonnes.
Environmental campaigners at Greenpeace are calling for a ban on private jet travel, highlighting that the research shows almost one-in-four (39%) private jet flights in Europe were considered “very short-haul” meaning they were less than 310 miles (500km) and could easily have been train trips.
There were also some staggeringly inefficient routes found in the analysis. A flight between Blackbushe and Farnborough in Hampshire – which is just 4.6 miles (7.4km) – topped the charts for the most carbon-intensive route in 2021 and 2022. This is because it takes less than 30 minutes to cycle between the two airports.
Doug Parr, the policy director at Greenpeace UK, said: “Private jets are staggeringly polluting and generally pointless. Many of these journeys can be covered almost as quickly by train, and some of them by bicycle.
“Millions of people around the world are facing climate chaos, losing livelihoods or worse, while a tiny minority are burning jet fuel like there’s no tomorrow. If the government is serious about net zero and a fair transition to low-carbon transport, then private jets should be first on the chopping block.”
Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “Private jets are the climate-wrecking preserve of the mega-rich. So it’s no surprise that a government – run by millionaires, for millionaires – is allowing privileged private jet flyers to flourish at the expense of people and planet.
“If the government’s not prepared to ban private jets, then at the very least it should be levying a super tax on private jet travel, and use those proceeds to fund the transition to a green economy.”