A couple of months ago I went to dinner with a friend and her friend, both of whom work for worthy, climate-based initiatives, both of whom are working in their professional and personal lives to halt climate change.
The conversation was illuminating, especially as I thought I had a handle on all the main issues and, personally, felt I do fairly well at controlling my carbon output. We are a vegetarian household, we are thoughtful about when we use our car, we buy second-hand. However, there was a slant to the conversation that annoyed me.
My dinner companions were discussing their air travel. They each flew a few times a year, mostly to visit family but also to travel to far-flung locations. They both felt guilty about it and were trying their best to choose public transport over flights, even though it generally cost much more.
I was not annoyed with my friend and her friend. If anything, their concern made me understand the importance of the issue. My anger was that here were two hard-working people, doing everything in their power to limit air travel even at the expense of losing very limited time off to the journey. They worked in the third sector, yet were opting to travel by less efficient, more expensive means.
And then I thought about the super-rich, taking private jets for a round of golf. I thought about Leonardo DiCaprio, urging us to care about the environment, yet thinking it’s acceptable to fly 8000 miles by private jet to accept an award for fighting against climate change.
There has been a lot in the news this past week about how taxation might affect the super-rich, how they will leave the country immediately. London has the highest percentage of billionaires in Europe —another reason to implement higher rates of taxation (or taxation at all!) on the super-rich — who are the primary users of private jets. If we ban this mode of transport by 2025, as proposed, it will make a real, tangible difference to carbon emissions.
The Guardian reports that 40% of journeys made by private jet are empty, and that flying by jet contributes as much as ten times the carbon of flying in economy. Banning them entirely could save as much as 450,000 cars’ worth of emissions in Britain.
There just isn’t any need to fly by private jet. I fail to see why the super-rich are given a pass while the rest of us make do with standard timetables. In fact, with more than 8000 flights per day in the UK, surely we could streamline those timetables, too.
When Price Harry is telling us ‘every action makes a difference’ while taking private jets around the world, he is saying that his needs outweigh our own. When Leo DiCap warns us about melting ice by flying around the world to do it, he is being tone deaf at best. There’s a reason Greta Thunberg strikes a nerve: she actually walks the walk.
Greta, who at 16 already has more wisdom, compassion and integrity than any other climate campaigner in the public eye, recently refused an award for her work (take note, Leo). She doesn’t just avoid private jets, she refuses to fly point blank. At time of writing, she has no way of getting home from America.
If my friends — and Greta — are able to consider the consquences of each flight and look seriously at alternatives, sacrificing time and/ or money to do the best for the planet, what excuse is there for private jets?
Ban them. Ban them now. And let’s see how quickly efficient, realistic alternatives suddenly appear.