On the 16th of November 2022, several celebrities flew to a party organised by Marta Ortega, daughter of Spanish Zara billionaire Amancio Ortega.
While millions of us are struggling with energy bills and feeling the devastating effects of the climate crisis, it’s shocking to witness such waste of resources by some of Europe’s wealthiest. We had a look at open data to better understand the ecological price of a casual Wednesday party of the ultra rich.
We found that the emissions caused by those private flights amount to at least 145 tonnes of CO₂. This is the equivalent of the yearly transport emissions of 72 Spaniards.
The private jets flying to the party
Many private jets fly daily in Galicia. We found at least four of them that can be traced to the party because of the person who owns them, their passengers, or their times of arrival and departure.
On the day of the party, one of the private jets owned by the Ortega family made a round trip from Santiago airport in Galicia, where it was stationed for days, to Madrid. It remained in Madrid for less than an hour before going straight back to Santiago.
Irina Shayk, Karen Elson, Karlie Kloss and Christy Turlington are four supermodels who crossed the Atlantic Ocean to attend the party. They returned to New York the next day. Karen Elson posted an Instagram story with the other models aboard a private jet.
Somebody also ordered two private jets from Amelia Pro, a company providing jet leasing services to rich people. They arrived in Santiago on the 16th and left on the 17th of November, both at the same time, coinciding with the four supermodels coming from New York. One of the Amelia Pro’s jets flew straight from Paris, the other was in France and travelled to London for a short stop before taking off to Santiago.
International celebrities like Amber Valletta, Natalia Vodianova, Naomi Campbell and Marisa Berenson attended the party. Some of them might have been in one of those rented jets, particularly those known to be frequent private jet flyers based in Paris or London. Nevertheless, to track the emissions we are looking into the jets, not which individual was on them. And the results are astonishing!
The private flights that we connect with the party emitted 145,7 tonnes of CO₂ into the atmosphere. In comparison, an average Spanish citizen causes 2 tonnes of CO₂ for all the transports used in a year. These private flights actually caused more CO₂ emissions than an average Indian person in a lifetime!
Reasonable and less polluting transport alternatives existed. They are used daily by regular citizens who feel the cost of living crisis, or don’t want to contribute to the climate breakdown.
For example, the trip of Ortega’s jet could have been done in 3 hours by direct train. And if they wanted more privacy, they could have travelled in first class.
A history of tax exemptions and hidden emission
One of the reasons why rich people opt for private jets is their unjustified favoured treatment accorded by our politicians.
According to a recent study, three out of four Europeans support taxing jet fuel. Despite this, kerosene for planes is still not taxed in the European Union. This is a political choice by our elected officials.
Governments could work together in the EU, or make bilateral and multilateral agreements, to tax kerosene in the same way they do for the fuel used in cars or for heating homes. So far, they have largely ignored pleas from environmental advocates to start taxing jet fuel.
These 145 tonnes of CO₂ are not accounted neither within Spain nor in the European Union’s emissions reduction targets. Nor will they be considered by the ‘Emissions Trading System’, a mechanism established by the EU to make polluters pay for their emissions, which applies to commercial airlines but - for dubious reasons - does not to private jets.
A global movement to ground private jets
The good news is that these practices and privileges are increasingly exposed and people are standing up against private jets. Activists and scientists are taking direct action to block private jet runways and terminals all over the world. Citizens have started to track the flights of the ultra rich and reveal their emissions on social media in countries like France and Italy.
Finally, the topic started to be debated in the political arena as well. A recent law in France will tax private jet fuel equally to car fuel. In Amsterdam, just after 600 activists grounded private jets at Schiphol airport, the city council passed a resolution to tax kerosene and commissioned a study on the possibility to ban private jets. A similar proposal has also been presented in the Spanish parliament.
For several decades, private jets have been a status symbol and an essential luxury for the ultra rich. Nowadays, banning them has become a mainstream political demand difficult to ignore. Get on board this movement and let’s ban climate frying private jets!