‘It’s hugely unfair that rich people can wreck the climate this way’ – shocking rise in private jet use at Irish airports

One trip by wealthy flyers emitted roughly similar carbon amount as a petrol car driving 40,000km circumference of earth

Average private jet emissions per flight have increased

Caroline O'Doherty

Wealthy flyers took off in private jets from Irish airports 6,671 times last year, emitting vast amounts of carbon as they went, research shows.

The number of private jet flights more than doubled when compared to 2021, when 2,578 were recorded.

During 2020, when the most prolonged Covid lockdown was in place, private jets took off 858 times.

The research, commissioned by environmental organisation Greenpeace, shows the volume of carbon emissions also soared – from 3,072 tonnes in 2020 to 19,646 tonnes in 2021 and 67,903 tonnes last year.

Average emissions per flight increased from 3.6 tonnes to 7.6 tonnes to 10.2 tonnes, way above the EU average of 5.9 tonnes.

One average flight from Ireland last year emitted roughly the same amount of carbon as a petrol car driving the 40,000km circumference of the earth.

It is around the same amount of carbon the average Irish person emits from all their activities over ten months.

Pollution for wasteful luxury has to be the first to go

While the rise in emissions indicates that larger aircraft were in use or longer flights were undertaken, the most frequently flown route out of the country was the short hop from Dublin to London.

That route is served by around 40 commercial flights a day and can also be undertaken by ferry and train.

Private jets are five to 14 times more carbon polluting than commercial flights and 50 times more polluting than trains.

Dublin Airport. Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Scores of even shorter flights were taken between Kerry and Cork, Dublin and Cork, Dublin and Belfast, Shannon and Cork and Shannon and Kerry.

Greenpeace is calling on the EU and national governments to outlaw private jets and to ban short-haul flights where rail offers an alternative.

“It’s hugely unfair that rich people can wreck the climate this way,” said the organisation’s EU transport campaigner, Thomas Gelin.

“Pollution for wasteful luxury has to be the first to go.”

Sinn Fein Senator Lynn Boylan last year called on the Government to impose a €3,000 “luxury emissions” tax on private jets but was told it could only be considered as part of an EU-wide move.

Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan

She said the figures now available make a strong case for Ireland taking the lead on the issue.

“Now we have the figures in black and white and they are higher than previously estimated,” she said.

“Climate justice advocates have long argued that not all carbon emissions are equal.

“The Government’s approach to climate action to date has been about punishing ordinary people while the wealthy seem to be exempt to continue living their carbon-intensive lifestyles.

“A levy on private jets would demonstrate that they are committed to a real, just transition.”

Most private jets in Ireland are owned by charter companies and booked by businesses for their executives, although some are owned by wealthy business people.

Other, smaller aircraft and those jointly owned and used for recreation at flying clubs are not counted in the research, which excludes those with fewer than three seats and flights from aerodromes.

Nice on the Côte d’Azur was one of the most popular destinations for private jets

Dublin and Shannon are the busiest airports for private jet business but Cork and Kerry have also had hundreds of departures in the past three years.​

In total, the number of private jet flights within Europe increased by 64pc last year to 572,806 while emissions more than doubled to more than 5.3 million tonnes.

The countries with the most private jet flights in Europe in 2022 were France, the UK and Germany. The three most popular destinations for private jets in Europe were the Côte d’Azur, Paris, and Geneva.

The research for Greenpeace was carried out by the Dutch environmental consultancy CE Delft.