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Growing demand for private jets challenges climate action

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Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is calling for people to fly less as a way to reduce their carbon footprint. But companies and millionaires don’t seem to have taken note yet, as they are expected to buy almost 8,000 new private jets over the next decade.

Just this year about 690 new business jets are expected to take the skies, a 9% increase from last year. Private jets have a large carbon footprint as they burn 40 times as much carbon per passenger as regular commercial flights. Nevertheless, their demand is on the rise, according to a report.

Over the next decade, the number of new private jets taking to the skies is expected to total 7,600 – costing buyers a combined $248bn. One-fifth of the new jets are expected to be ordered by “super-emitter” celebrities and other members of the wealthiest 1% of the population, who use the planes to fly between their homes.

“It is the introduction of many new aircraft models at the same time, with new clean streamline designs, that is driving demand for new private jets,” Gaetan Handfield, senior manager of marketing analysis at Honeywell Aerospace and author of the report told The Guardian. “People like to have the newest and best jets.”

According to the report, a new range of jets produced by the companies Bombardier, Gulfstream, and Cessna are proving popular with buyers, as they have extended range that can allow executives to fly as far as New York to Beijing non-stop. Larger cabins also allow more luxurious conditions.

Bombardier recently introduced the Global 7500, the world’s largest and longest-range business jet. The company claims the jet has the largest cabin available, which can “accommodate four true living spaces with an available Master Suite and full-size bed, dedicated crew suite, and kitchen, according to the company’s website.

The global super-rich accounts for between 15% and 25% of the world’s private jet market, while the majority are bought by multinational companies and about a quarter are bought by companies that organize “sort of timeshares” of planes, Brian Foley, an aviation analyst, told The Guardian.

Recent research by a Swedish university has found that celebrities who have called for the need to address the climate crisis are among a group of “super-emitters” who own private jets or regularly travel on them. Microsoft founder Bill Gates took 59 flights in 2017 travelling more than 200,000 miles.

The report estimated that Gates’ private jet travel, which he has described as his “guilty pleasure”, emitted about 1,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That compares to a global average of fewer than five tonnes per person. Other celebrities identified as super-emitters are Paris Hilton and Jennifer Lopez.

“I guess most celebrities don’t care [about the climate crisis] or if they care, they don’t care enough to change it.” John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, told The Guardian. “As private jets boom, the planet busts. To put it bluntly, it’s us or them.”

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