Celebrity private jets have been a controversial news topic recently, however the issue goes much deeper while jet usage becomes more common.
It’s hardly news that Kylie Jenner shared a picture of her embracing boyfriend and rapper Travis Scott recently. And the Instagram post of the pair might have been forgotten had it not been for one thing: The two giant private jets towering over them. Under the image the caption read: “You wanna take mine or yours?”
The internet was furious. “This isn’t the flex you think it is,” wrote one user. “That carbon footprint be wild,” said another. Her tone-deaf social media post was just the beginning of a backlash against celebrities with private jets. Spurred on by the photo, UK sustainability marketing firm Yard began to investigate the impact these high-flyers currently have on the environment, just as the UK’s provisional mean temperature in June was recorded as 0.6 °C above the national average, according to the Met Office.
The research, based on data compiled by twitter account CelebJets using unfiltered flight data from adsbexchange.com, was surprising. Kylie Jenner, who ranked at 17th, didn’t even come close to the top 10 list of offenders. Even more surprising: the number one-carbon emitter among the celebrities listed was Taylor Swift.
In the first seven months of this year, Swift’s private jet was busy; making 170 journeys in total with an average flight time of 80 minutes. That equates to 1,184.8 times more carbon emissions than the average person produces in an entire year. In fact, it’s closer to what a group of 1,184 normal people might emit annually.
The research, published on 29 July, didn’t stop there. Coming in second on the carbon emissions list was Floyd Mayweather, who emitted an estimated 7,076.8 tonnes of CO2 from his private jet this year, averaging almost a flight a day with 25 flights each month. His shortest flight came in at a measly 10 minutes.
And let’s not forget about Jay-Z; A-Rod; Blake Sheldon; Steven Spielberg; Kim Kardashian; Mark Wahlberg; Oprah Winfrey or Travis Scott; who made up the rest of the top 10 private jet carbon emitters. Scott in particular had the shortest average flight time, averaging just seven minutes.
Taylor Swift was one of the few celebrities to respond to the report, with her representative stating that the musician rents out her jet when she is not using it, hence the air miles. Drake also defended himself. “This is just them moving planes to whatever airport they are being stored at for anyone who was interested in the logistics… nobody takes that flight,” he shared on Instagram.
While celebrities refuse to apologise for their quick flights, one statistic is hard to ignore: in a year where the average Brit emitted just seven tonnes of C02, the average celebrity on this long list of jet users totalled 3,376.64 tonnes a year from private flights alone. Even worse, last year The European Federation for Transport and the Environment (T&E) found that 50 per cent of all aviation pollution was caused by just one per cent of the global population.
But it isn’t just Hollywood celebrities; the UK’s private jet usage is also beginning to soar. On 18 January 2022, Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership contender Liz Truss flew 22,000 miles to Australia in a private jet, costing the government £500,000. A commercial flight flying at a similar time on the same day would have actually got Truss into Australia five hours earlier than her solo journey, the Independent reported at the time. Instead, the Foreign Secretary opted to emit almost 500 tonnes of carbon.
Last year the UK ranked as the worst country in Europe for private-jet use, with France coming a close second, according to the report by T&E. “If you look at the data, private jet sales started rising massively in the pandemic and now France and the UK emit more flight emissions than the lowest twenty European countries combined,” says Matt Finch, interim Director of T&E.
For Finch, the reason for this huge discrepancy is obvious. “Private jets in the UK are exempted from pretty much every tax going,” says Finch. In particular, the Isle of Man has been offering a tax break of 0 per cent VAT for private jet owners for years now, despite warnings of illegality from the EU. “So it’s political. The fuel that goes into the plane isn’t taxed so it leads to this ludicrous situation where if you filled your car up in the last week you’ve paid more tax than a private jet has ever paid.”
In the UK especially, private jets are often bought through businesses as tax deductible investments, Finch explains. “There ends up being a myriad of ways that very rich people in the UK really don’t pay anything for the environmental damage that they’re causing.”
And this complex problem is only set to get worse. “It’s actually getting worse because there’s just been a huge increase in private flights since the pandemic when people weren’t allowed on commercial flights,” says Leo Murray co-founder and director of innovation at climate charity Possible.
“In fact in 2020, my team looked into what happened to air traffic across the UK and in the 2020 lockdowns all the airports saw around an eight per cent pass reduction, except for the private airports which saw almost no reduction in plane movement at all,” says Murray. “The super rich just carried on as they had been before.”
But while private plane usage emits the highest amount of carbon per flight, they are not the worst problem when it comes to putting carbon in the sky. “The highest proportion of the problem are commercial flights. Private jet emissions are off the scale compared to a commercial jet but the number of people who fly private is so tiny compared to people who fly commercial so the private emissions are quite low in the grand scheme of things,” says Anna Hughes, Director of Flight Free UK, a campaign group lobbying for the reduction of aviation pollution.
According to Hughes, the real issue comes down to our complicated relationship with the notion of celebrity. “We need celebrities to realise that they are leaders, and to lead by example when it comes to climate action because they influence us so much. We need more bands like Coldplay, who have said they’re not going to tour unless they can find a carbon neutral way to do it. I mean, that’s quite difficult, but at least they’re talking about it and making this huge pollution a conscious issue,” Hughes says.
This hypothesis has not been plucked from thin air. In 2019 Steve Westlake, an environmental researcher at the University of Cardiff, found that the general public are more likely to give up flying if they know someone that has already done it. The likelihood of this happening is even higher if that person is a celebrity; with two thirds of people reporting that they would fly less because of this person.
“Taylor Swift is actually an almost perfect example because she has been vocal on political issues and on the climate,” says Murray. “But then having people like Swift being so unbelievably irresponsible with respect to their own travel habits just kills public appetite for doing anything about this in their own lives.”
So when it comes to celebrities, however unconsciously, their decisions impact our own. And as the world heats up, the future of the planet rests on the super rich leading the way and landing their jets on the runway, for good.
Original source: https://inews.co.uk