By Emily Zanotti | 29 Jan 2019
A handful of the world’s wealthiest and most successful people are gathering in Davos, Switzerland, this week to discuss how to make the world a better place — and, in particular, how to address the “urgent” threat of climate change — but they’ll take more than 1,500 separate private jets to get to the tony ski resort.
Davos, an exclusive winter playground for the rich and famous, hosts the annual World Economic Forum, and the event attracts only the “global elite,” according to QZ.com — a guest list of 3,000 celebrities, government officials, foundation heads, investment bankers, intellectual luminaries, CEOs, and deep thinkers.
Tickets to the event cost around $50,000, not including the cost of travel.
On the agenda: the environment. The meeting opened with a speech by legendary naturalist David Attenborough, who claimed to the audience that “the garden of Eden is no more,” and that climate change is “threatening to undermine civilization.” The U.K.’s Prince William even met privately at Davos with environmental “thought-leader” Al Gore, to discuss ways to join forces. Davos attendees discussed a “global environment plan.”
But if they’re trying to save the earth, Captain Planet style, they’re failing miserably on an individual level. According to Marketwatch, Air Charter Service reports that Davos attendees (of which there are only 3,000) will travel to the Swiss resort mostly on private planes. More than 1,500 individual jets are expected at local airports, up 200 from last year, when Davos attendees took only 1,300 private planes to the conference.
“PrivateFly.com, a private-jet service, said it expects between 1,200 and 1,500 private jets in and out of local airports around Davos, double the average daily volume of flight traffic to the area,” Marketwatch reported.
“There appears to be a trend towards larger aircraft, with expensive heavy jets the aircraft of choice, with Gulfstream GVs and Global Expresses both being used more than 100 times each last year,” the head of ACS told the Guardian.
According to MyClimate.org’s handy “carbon footprint” calcluator, a single-passenger jet traveling from New York’s JFK airport to Zurich, round trip, emits around 7 metric tons of carbon — nearly as much as a single American household emits in an entire year. The same round trip flight from Heathrow Airport in London, 1 ton. From Rio de Janerio, it’s 10 tons — more than any individual in Europe emits over the course of a year, with potential commercial air travel.
The total carbon emissions from the Davos jet set is nearly impossible to calculate without detailed travel itineraries, but it’s likely well more than 1,500 tons of carbon. The EPA estimates that 1,500 metric tons of carbon could power 318 vehicles for a full year, or one car driving a distance of more than three million miles. Its equivalent to burning more than 1.6 million pounds of coal, 160,000 gallons of gasoline, or 3,500 barrels of crude oil.
Davos knows this is happening and has disputed the private jet companies’ claims, calling the actual calculation of the World Economic Forum’s carbon footprint “complicated.”
“How many private jets are going to Davos in 2019? It’s a question that always gets asked. And so it should,” the President of the World Economic forum wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. “From an environmental perspective, taking a private jet is the worst way to travel to Davos.”
“It’s also a complicated question, as the data is not always easy to determine,” he continued, adding that it’s difficult for such important people to take time out of their busy lives to travel using commercial flights or public transportation. “For example, air traffic authorities use a metric called ATM, or Air Traffic Movements. A normal flight would be two ATMs, however during busy times, when parking is not available at the airport, planes are required to take off again and park at another airstrip nearby. This adds a further two legs to the journey.”
Davos says it is offering “incentives” to World Economic Forum attendees who take “public transport,” and that they are encouraging guests to “double up” or share air travel.