The UK is the worst country in Europe for private jet travel, with more flights than anywhere else on the continent, analysis has found.
A private jet set off from UK soil once every six minutes last year, putting the country ahead of the rest of Europe for the polluting form of travel.
Research commissioned by Greenpeace found the UK had the most flights and the most emissions from private jet flights in 2022, as well as the most carbon-intensive routes.
The analysis, conducted by Dutch environmental consultants CE Delft, showed a 75% surge in private jet use last year compared to 2021, rising to 90,256 flights and causing half a million tonnes of CO2. Greenpeace branded many of these journeys as “polluting and pointless” as they could easily have been taken by train, while some could be cycled.
The route between London and Paris – where Eurostar runs trains between 10 and 15 times a day – was the most popular, with 3,357 private flights in 2022.
A route between Farnborough and Blackbushe airports in Hampshire was found to be the most carbon-intensive and covers a distance of fewer than five miles, which Google Maps says can be walked in just over an hour-and-a-half.
There were 13 flights made on this route in 2022 which produced 23 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to driving around 50,000 miles, the research found. Greenpeace analysts said these flights were likely to have been made for positioning, when a plane is moved to another airport to begin its primary flight.
There were also 1,343 flights between Farnborough and various London airports throughout last year. Farnborough describes itself as the largest and most pre-eminent business airport in the UK and the “business gateway to Europe and beyond”.
Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK, said: “Private jets are staggeringly polluting and generally pointless. Many of these journeys can be covered almost as quickly by train, and some of them by bicycle.
“Millions of people around the world are facing climate chaos, losing livelihoods or worse, while a tiny minority are burning jet fuel like there’s no tomorrow. If the government is serious about net zero and a fair transition to low-carbon transport then private jets should be first on the chopping block.”
The research was conducted using data from aviation analytics company Cirium, and assessed private jet traffic across Europe over three years - 2020, 2021 and 2022 - and the associated CO2 emissions. In those three years combined there were 1,041,640 flights causing 5,377,851 tonnes of CO2 – equal to the entire annual emissions of Leeds, the researchers said.
As with all international traffic, private flights dropped in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, but a year later, when travel restrictions were still in place for many commercial passengers, they shot back up and exceeded 2019 levels, analysis showed.
The number of flights increased further still in 2022 from 350,078 to 572,806, with the associated CO2 more than doubling to over 3.3 million tonnes, it found.
Greenpeace is now calling for a ban on private jets, saying 39% of the 570,000 flights made across Europe last year were considered “very short haul”, less than 500km, and were therefore easily navigable by train.
Max Thrower, of the Aviation Environment Federation, a group that campaigns on aviation’s environmental impacts, said: “Flying by private jet is the most carbon-intensive way to travel and it’s unacceptable that people continue to do it unnecessarily in the midst of a climate emergency.
“The fact it continues suggests that the super-rich are laughing in the faces of normal people, who are becoming increasingly concerned about their carbon footprint from flying.
“The government should take steps to clamp down on this through measures like an increased tax on private jets, which has been considered recently in France, or by setting a deadline for private planes to be zero emission or face a ban.”
A spokesperson from the Department for Transport said: “We are committed to decarbonising aviation, and our jet zero strategy sets out how we can achieve net zero emissions from UK aviation by 2050, without directly limiting demand.
“The UK’s sustainable aviation fuels programme is one of the most comprehensive in the world, and our £165 million advanced fuel fund is kickstarting production. Meanwhile, our recent reforms to the tax on air passengers will ensure those who fly private jets or fly the furthest contribute the most to the public purse.
“The UK is decarbonising faster than any other G7 country, and we remain committed to reaching net zero by 2050 while growing the economy and supporting hundreds of thousands of well-paid green jobs.”