Written by Eric Lombard While the aviation sector and governments promise a new era of “sustainable” aviation fuels (SAF), we know that it will divert much-needed resources away from other sectors and take decades to happen, if at all. Yet there is an efficient way to...
20+ Actions against Private Jets
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Today, several blockades of private jet terminals took place around the globe.
Protestors call for a ban on private jets, the taxation of frequent flyers and that polluters pay for the loss and damage they cause.
February 14th, 2023 – Today, at least 16 actions targeting private jet airports took place in 11 countries. Three more actions against private jets happened the days before. The protests are part of the ongoing Make Them Pay campaign  to confront the climate injustice of aviation and call out the rich and powerful for their luxury emissions.
Targets included the Air Ops luxury aviation conference in Brussels , along with private jet terminals in Los Angeles (US, Feb 11), Brussels (BE, Feb 13), Sevilla (ES, Feb 13), London Luton (UK), Christchurch (NZ), two in Stockholm, Malmö, Lund, Gothenburg (SW), Milan (IT), Amsterdam (NL), Værnes and Trondheim (NO), Cascais (PT), Melbourne and Victoria (AU), Madrid, Palma de Mallorca and Ibiza (ES). More actions are happening right now in the US – in total 23 actions are expected.
“It is time to ban private jets and tax frequent flyers to the ground”, states NASA climate scientist Dr. Peter Kalmus from Scientist Rebellion, emphasizing that “we cannot allow the rich to sacrifice our present and future in the pursuit of their luxury lifestyles“.
The campaign is supported by Scientist Rebellion, Extinction Rebellion and Stay Grounded, and unites citizens and scientists from around the globe behind three demands:
- BAN PRIVATE JETS
- TAX FREQUENT FLYERS
- MAKE POLLUTERS PAY
At least 200 people took part in the protests, 50+ of them scientists from a variety of disciplines. Disruption was caused by protesters using an array of tactics, from symbolic actions to blockading airport entrances and runways or stopping trains loaded with airplane fuel. Some protestors were arrested and later released, while several more were identified by the police. This wave of protest follows similar actions against private jets in November and January.
The campaign highlights that the jet-setting life-styles of the richest 1% are causing devastating climate impacts, yet private jet use is massively subsidised and untaxed.  “With no useful policies in place to tackle this climate injustice, we need to use our bodies to stop the private jets”, explains Marion Malcher from Extinction Rebellion UK.
“Burning tons of fuel for luxury flights is incredibly unfair during a cost-of-living crisis, and criminal within the context of an intensifying climate crisis”, says Inês Teles from the global Stay Grounded network. Aviation represents the pinnacle of emissions inequality and needs to be drastically reduced in order to halt the climate crisis. “We should start by cutting out the most carbon-intensive and useless flights – and private jets are the most striking example of those“, proposes Inês .
In fact, private jets are mostly used for recreation and for very short trips (< 500 km), where alternatives like trains exist. A private jet is 10 times more energy-intensive compared to a commercial airliner, and 50 times more energy-intensive compared to train travel. A four-hour flight in a private jet emits as much carbon as the average person does in an entire year . Furthermore, 1% of the global population produces over a half of total aviation emissions , while 80% of the global population have never even set foot on a plane .
Citizens’ Assemblies in multiple countries have shown that people are in favor of banning private jets. They also concluded that wealthy polluters should pay for their higher emissions, and that there should be an increasing tax applied to those who fly further and more frequently than others . This is known as a frequent flyer levy .
Sara Campbell from Extinction Rebellion Aotearoa / New Zealand makes it clear: “aviation fuel and frequent flyers should be taxed and the proceeds from this tax should be used to finance affordable public transport for all and climate reparations to those most affected by the climate crisis, who are also the least responsible.” The Least Developed Countries (LDC) group, representing the most climate-vulnerable countries at COP27, also proposed a global aviation tax in order to pay for climate ‘loss & damage’ funds for their countries . Studies show that we could raise in excess of $100 billion a year this way . For countries most affected by climate change, it is also key to have debts cancelled, so that they can afford to transition to low-carbon economies . In addition, recent studies show that the failure to address the power and privilege of the polluter elite is a core driver of climate breakdown. This is a precondition for tackling global poverty, since reducing carbon consumption at the top can free up carbon space to lift people out of poverty .
This campaign is a call to action, with follow-up protests to be expected in the upcoming months. “We must apply pressure to political leaders, particularly within wealthy countries with the most air traffic, to address these inequalities once and for all – and to introduce progressive policies to crack down on excessive flying, and raise the climate finance that has been so long promised, yet never delivered”, concludes Dr. Rose Abramoff, earth scientist and member of Scientist Rebellion .
“It is obscene that Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates can fly their private jets tax free, while the average person is struggling to pay for energy and make ends meet. It’s only fair that wealthy polluters pay for their sky-high emissions and help fund measures for those who most need it.”
– Inês Teles, Stay Grounded spokesperson
“To put it bluntly: The rich are destroying the planet, the damage is irreversible, and we have to stop them. Banning private jets, taxing frequent flyers, and making the polluters pay are sensible first steps.”
– Dr. Darci Rush, senior marine researcher who works on paleoclimate reconstructions at a Dutch research institute
“To avoid climate catastrophe, we must shift into emergency mode. This includes reducing the luxury emissions of a wealthy elite, whose carbon footprint is orders of magnitude larger than that of the rest of us. It is unacceptable that the super-rich continue criss-crossing around the world while millions are suffering from disastrous climate impacts.”
– Dr. Marthe Wens, Assistant Professor in drought risk, water security, and societal impacts at a Dutch university
“Extinction Rebellion and other climate activist groups are often criticised for disrupting the lives of ‘normal working people’ – well it should be clear that owning a private jet isn’t normal. This is a targeted action – we’re disrupting only the top 1%: the highest-income, highest emitters who are most responsible for pollution and have the most power to affect changes.”
– Dr. Rose Abramoff, earth scientist and member of Scientist Rebellion
“Our campaign demands come from listening to the most climate-vulnerable communities and democratic Citizens’ Assembly recommendations, which have been largely ignored by our politicians.”
– Dr. Björn Paxling, Scientist Rebellion Sweden
“Rapid climate action will involve some changes for all of us. But the largest changes are required from the top 10% of incomes, who are also those who have a bigger responsibility in the climate crisis. For most people relatively little change is required and those changes that do happen can have positive benefits to health and wellbeing. A more equal, healthier, safer and cleaner planet is possible – but we need to pressure those in power to deliver it.”
– Matthew Wheeler, Biohealth scientist, wildland firefighter, co-founder of Guardian Rebellion, board member of the Second Rainbow Coalition and member of Scientist Rebellion.
“I’m an aviation worker – but feel that I can’t stand-by watching the emissions from my industry continue to grow and contribute so heavily to the climate carnage wreaking havoc around the world. These impacts are mostly felt by the poorest communities, so it’s sickening to also realise that an elite minority of super-rich mega polluters are responsible for the majority of global emissions from air travel. ”
– Finlay Asher, aerospace engineer, and co-founder of Safe Landing 
 “Make Them Pay” campaign website: https://makethempay.info/
 AIR OPS is Europe’s biggest event organized by the European lobby of private jets (EBAA). It hosts 400 industry professionals like leasing corporations, brokers, tax consultants, fuel suppliers etc. It takes place 13-15 February in Event Lounge in Brussels. In their agenda are talks about taxes, labor market and their greenwashed climate targets. https://www.ebaa.org/events/air-ops-europe-2023/
 Multiple national Citizens’ Assemblies have produced such recommendations for the aviation sector, including:
- The UK Climate Assembly recommendations:
- “Ban polluting private jets and helicopters, moving to electric technology as it becomes available”
- “80% of assembly members ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that taxes that increase as people fly more often and as they fly further should be part of how the UK gets to net zero. Assembly members saw these taxes as fairer than alternative policy options.”
- Scotland’s Climate Assembly recommendations:
- “Eliminate frequent flyer and air mile bonuses to reduce the number of flights taken for business, encouraging the use of alternatives like video conferencing for meetings.” – 92% agree
- “Discourage air travel by introducing a frequent flyer tax or levy.” – 78% agree
- French Citizens’ Convention on Climate:
- Limiting the adverse effects of air travel: “Adopt an enhanced eco-contribution per kilometre”, “Increasing fuel taxes for recreational aviation”, and “Promoting the idea of a European eco-contribution” – 88.1% agree.
 Explanation of Frequent Flyer Levy policy: https://afreeride.org/