Stop greenwashing your way to Davos

januari 30, 2023
We fact check the business community’s green flying claims

“Our flights to Davos are powered with sustainable aviation fuels”

 In light of several controversies around private jet use at the World Economic Forum in recent years, its organisers are attempting to limit the damage by trying to make the flights more sustainable. In practice, this has meant promoting a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) initiative. The EBAA – the European business aviation association – encourages Davos-goers to purchase SAF for their private jet travel via a book-and-claim system[1]. WEF-attendants are under no obligation to purchase this SAF to green their flight, just recommended to do so. In a way, it’s an opt-in box for WEF with a green conscience.

SAFs are key to decarbonising aviation in the long-term. But for now, the supply is too limited to have a real impact on aviation emissions – just 0.1% of all the jet fuel used today. So more sustainable forms of travel to Davos should be promoted instead. Private planes are between five and 14 times more polluting than commercial jets per passenger, and 50 times more than high-speed rail. For European participants, rail travel to WEF should be the norm, not the exception.

“We offset the carbon emissions associated with flights”

Back in 2019, WEF organizers said that the forum offset all carbon emissions related to air travel to and from the meeting. This screams greenwashing. It has been proven time and again that offsetting is a fake climate solution that airlines and individuals should stop using as an excuse to postpone climate action.

A nine-month investigation by The Guardian, Die Zeit and Source Material has just revealed that the majority of carbon offsets used by global companies, including airlines like British Airways, United Airlines and Air France, are worthless. It finds that 90% of rainforest offset credits don’t represent genuine carbon reductions and raises questions over claims that flying doesn’t make the climate crisis worse.

 “A private jet ride to Davos will avoid many flights that year”

 You will hear many business leaders saying that by flying to Davos, they will avoid countless flights that following year as they get to meet all the ‘important’ people there. Our analysis shows that private jet traffic does not decrease after January, but rather the opposite. Any claims that attendance at the WEF will impact future flying behavior are not backed up by evidence .

“Not all private jet flights go to Davos”

 Earlier this month Greenpeace revealed that during the week of last year’s WEF, over 1,000 private jet flights arrived and departed out of airports serving Davos, with about every second flight attributed to the meeting.

The European Business Aviation Association was quick to refute the claims saying that these did not only include business aircraft, but also many small planes, military and government aircraft. They also said that many of the aircraft continued to another airport after dropping participants off as there were parking constraints. This, Greenpeace says, further proves how out of touch these jet setters are “trying to justify the crazy amounts of oil just to park a plane”.

A rethink of what kind of flights and travel is really necessary – Davos included. Decision makers and citizens need to choose more wisely when and how we travel, and eliminate excessive flying. If, as a leader, you come forward to say that your organization is taking steps to address climate change, then traveling by private jet to Davos is a non-starter.

[1] This is a transaction that enables the purchase of SAF, even if SAF is not available from their departing airport.

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