A debate has erupted in France over the increased use of private jets, as environmentalists call for a ban on such flights and accuse the government of not doing enough to combat climate change.
One private jet has come under particular fire -- that belonging to the Bolloré investment group, under billionaire Vincent Bolloré. A tweet was published showing a flight tracking map for the jet, which was seen to have carried out five private flights in one day.
The first was to Palermo from Paris, then on to Nice, then back to Paris, then to Toulon, and back to Paris – all between 08:01 and 18:12 on August 8.
Hier, quintuple vol de l'avion de Vincent Bolloré dans la même journée ! C'est un record depuis l'ouverture de ce compte— I Fly Bernard (@i_fly_Bernard) August 9, 2022
- 8h01: Paris --> Palerme
- 9h21: Palerme--> Nice
- 14h04: Nice --> Paris
- 16h41: Paris --> Toulon
- 18h12: Toulon --> Paris pic.twitter.com/djq2AxnMse
Private jets are considered to be major contributors to climate change and the current crises including repeated heatwaves and drought alerts, because of the CO2 emissions they produce.
Internet users have, in recent weeks, been highlighting the frequent private flights among some of France’s richest businessmen. In addition to Bolloré, flights on jets belonging to fashion magnate Bernard Arnault are among those to have come under scrutiny.
Similarly, a jet belonging to Martin Bouygues, CEO of the Bouygues group, was recorded making three private flights in mid-July. These emitted 70 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of the average emissions per person in France over seven years.
Could private jet flights be banned?
Some environmentalists and campaigners are now calling for private jets to be banned.
Julien Bayou, national secretary of green party les Verts said that in autumn he plans to propose a law that would ban the jets.
In newspaper Libération, he wrote that the lifestyle of the richest in society was no longer compatible with climate change.
He said: “This is the history of the breaking away of the elites; we’re on the same planet but no longer in the same world.”
However, the current government has appeared less in favour of an outright ban and more on increased regulation.
In an article in Le Parisien, Transport Minister Clément Beaune said he was considering ways of limiting the use of private aircraft. He said: "I think we need to act and regulate private jet flights. They are becoming a symbol of a two-tier system.”
Currently, there are no plans to ban the jets. However, they may soon be subject to increased regulation, especially for journeys where a viable train alternative exists.
Former Health Minister and current government spokesman Olivier Véran has also recently said that “it is not a question of banning private jets”.
He told FranceInter: “Private jets…create jobs [and] the private use of private jets is a very small part of the use of jets, which is itself a very small part of the use of aircraft, which represents a very small part of total emissions. Banning them is not going to cool the planet."
Yet, he admitted: “Private jets have symbolic value, and it’s important to prevent people in France from feeling as though major efforts are always being asked of the same people, the middle and working classes. They may be shocked that some of their fellow citizens take private jets to do short hops.”.
How many private jets are currently in France?
France is the largest market and most-used aviation space in Europe for private jets.
Figures from the European Business Aviation Association show that there were 243,189 private business jet movements (departures and arrivals) in France for the year 2021.
In context, this represents half of the flights passing through Paris-Charles de Gaulle each year or approximately 5-10% of total national traffic. Aviation accounts for 2.5% of global emissions.
Private jet flights have also increased significantly since the Covid-19 pandemic, after health regulations grounded all commercial aircraft.
The Financial Times reported that there were 4.2 million private jet flights in 2021, and many private companies ordered new jets as a result of the increased demand.