Eco group slams Davos summit as global elites arrive in private jets to talk climate policy

Greenpeace International, a global climate group that opposes fossil fuels, released a study showing that elites largely travel to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual conference via private jets.

The analysis – published late last week by Greenpeace and the environmental research firm CE Delft – showed that there was a significant uptick in private jet flights, many of which were short-distance, to airports near WEF’s headquarters in Davos, Switzerland, during the 2022 summit. The group released the study ahead of WEF’s 2023 summit, which is slated to kick off this week.

‘Europe is experiencing the warmest January days ever recorded and communities around the world are grappling with extreme weather events supercharged by the climate crisis,’ Greenpeace campaigner Klara Maria Schenk said in a statement Friday. ‘Meanwhile, the rich and powerful flock to Davos in ultra-polluting, socially inequitable private jets to discuss climate and inequality behind closed doors.’

‘Davos has a perfectly adequate railway station, still these people can’t even be bothered to take the train for a trip as short as 21 [kilometers],’ she continued. ‘Do we really believe that these are the people to solve the problems the world faces?’

The study determined that 1,040 flights on private jets were recorded arriving and departing seven airstrips close to Davos during the week of the 2022 WEF conference. The private jet air traffic in the region represented an uptick of about 500 private flights relative to weeks before and after the conference. Therefore, Greenpeace estimated that those 500 flights, or 48% of all private jets in the area that week, were transporting conference participants.

A sizable number of the jets recorded short-distance flights with dozens flying less than 100 kilometers, the equivalent of 62 miles, to Davos. Greenpeace argued the majority of the flights could have been replaced with train rides.

In addition, private jets flying into the Davos area during the week of the 2022 forum emitted a whopping 9,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide. The study attributed 7,400 metric tons to planes servicing the conference. By comparison, the average person worldwide has an estimated annual carbon footprint of four tons.

‘Given that 80% of the world’s population has never even flown, but suffers from the consequences of climate-damaging aviation emissions, and that the WEF claims to be committed to the 1.5°C Paris Climate Target, this annual private jet bonanza is a distasteful masterclass in hypocrisy,’ Greenpeace’s Schenk added. 

‘Private jets must be consigned to history if we are to have a green, just and safe future for all,’ she said. ‘It’s about time our political leaders start to lead by example instead of producing hot air in secret meetings with big business.’

On Monday, in protest of WEF attendees’ heavy private jet use, a local Swiss environmental group conducted a four-hour blockade at one of the Davos-area airports. The group said WEF was the ‘root cause’ of the global issues it sought to fix.

Among WEF’s main agenda items are areas of environmental policy. The conference’s programs highlights the top priority as ‘addressing the current energy and food crises in the context of a new system for energy, climate and nature.’

In the past, billionaires and world leaders like John Kerry, Bill Gates and George Soros have attended the Davos summit.

The WEF conference has also previously faced attacks over hypocrisy related to its participants’ private jet usage.

In 2019, the private jet firm Air Charter Service released its own study showing that about 1,500 private jets flew into airports near Davos for WEF’s annual meeting that year, sparking outrage among environmentalists. 

The WEF responded, saying the figure was likely an overestimate, but admitted the more accurate number was closer to 500 private jets, a year-over-year decline that it argued showed participants were ‘taking the environmental impact of their travel more seriously.’

‘We have been offering incentives to participants to use public transport for some years,’ WEF said in a statement in January 2019. ‘We also ask that they share planes if they have to use them; something that has been gaining popularity in recent years.’

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