Hey millionaires, ditch the plane for a train – POLITICO
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The sight of the ultra-rich criss-crossing France on private jets is creating a backlash on social media – and politicians are boarding to castigate the wealthy for undermining climate change efforts.
Transport Minister Clément Beaune wants European transport ministers to regulate CO2 emissions from private planes at their October summit.
« There are behaviors that are no longer acceptable, » he told Le Parisien this weekend.
Green party leader Julien Bayou last week said he would present in September a legislative proposal banning such flights, even if it is a little too far for Beaune, who argues that part of private aviation is an “important commercial activity”.
It’s a reaction to social media accounts that follow French jet-setters’ use of the plane.
One of them, the twitter I Fly Bernard to place, named after Bernard Arnault, CEO of luxury giant LVMH, follows where the rich fly. In Exampleit found that Vincent Bolloré, the CEO of the multinational transport, logistics and communications company Bolloré, made five trips in just over 12 hours on August 8, zigzagging between Paris, Palermo, Nice and Toulon.
The traditional business rationale for short flights is that they are more efficient than keeping busy executives waiting for normally scheduled planes and trains. Even the EU supports the use of private aircraft. Last year, Brussels increased its four-year budget for private jets by 26% to 13.5 million euros.
But in a time of soaring inflation, economic worries and concern over climate change, such flights have few advocates.
Transport & Environment, a clean mobility NGO, found in a report last year that private jets are five to 14 times more polluting than commercial planes per passenger, and 50 times more polluting than trains.
The NGO wants to ban short trips on fossil-powered jets by 2030. It says this would spur demand for clean technologies like e-kerosene, made by combining hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
« Punitive taxes on private jets are the only way to account for their disproportionate impact on the climate, » said T&E Director of Aviation Jo Dardenne. « Governments should introduce a tax on tickets and fuel, appropriate to the distance flown and the weight of the aircraft. »
The report also revealed that, with the exception of Switzerland, private jets are not taxed in most European countries. Private jet ticket fare in Switzerland is worth between €500 and €5,000 – cash conservationists say it could fund new technologies like sustainable aviation fuels.
France is the EU’s private jet hotspot. In 2019, a tenth of flights departing from France were private, half of which traveled less than 500 kilometres.
The EU’s Fit for 55 climate package already includes some proposals for measures that will affect the use of private jets, such as a tax on kerosene in planes, but this file is still being processed by the European institutions. Any tax changes also require the unanimous support of all member countries.
The French effort is receiving some support from Belgium, where Green Party Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet said friday that most private jet trips are « hard to justify ».
But there is not much enthusiasm elsewhere.
« It’s not on our radar, » said an official from another EU country with a high number of private jet users.
The unrest in France is part of a wider attack on short flights.
Last year the government passed a law banning short-haul flights if there is a rail alternative taking two-and-a-half hours or less, although this only applies to commercial planes, not private jets.
The European Commission is currently analyzing this proposal but specifies that it “does not take a position on the measure itself, the objective of which it supports in principle”.
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