The claims of “ecological hypocrisy” come after a newly released analysis commissioned by Greenpeace found that approximately 1,040 private jets flew in and out of airports servicing Davos, a small resort town in the Swiss Alps, during last year’s World Economic Forum conference. The vast majority of the jets were embarking on short-haul flights of less than 500 miles that “could have easily been train or car trips,” while one plane carried its passengers a mere 13 miles to attend the event.
“Europe is experiencing the warmest January days ever recorded and communities around the world are grappling with extreme weather events supercharged by the climate crisis,” Klara Maria Schenk, a campaigner for Greenpeace, said in a statement. “Meanwhile, the rich and powerful flock to Davos in ultra-polluting, socially inequitable private jets to discuss climate and inequality behind closed doors. Davos has a perfectly adequate railway station, still these people can’t even be bothered to take the train.”
Countries with the highest number of arrivals and departures out of Davos airports included neighboring countries such as Germany, France, and Italy, according to the analysis, which was conducted by Dutch environmental consulting firm CE Delft. The research concluded that private jet travel in Davos during last year’s World Economic Forum produced carbon emissions equivalent to those caused in one week by 350,000 cars. Private jet emissions linked to Davos quadrupled during the week of the meeting compared to weeks before and after the event.
“Given that 80% of the world’s population has never even flown, but suffers from the consequences of climate-damaging aviation emissions,” Schenk continued, “this annual private jet bonanza is a distasteful masterclass in hypocrisy. Private jets must be consigned to history if we are to have a green, just and safe future for all. It’s about time our political leaders start to lead by example instead of producing hot air in secret meetings with big business.”
The theme of this year’s conference is “Cooperation in a Fragmented World,” which involves “how we can tackle the numerous and interlinked challenges the world is facing and find solutions through public-private cooperation,” according to a press release from the organization. World Economic Forum Chair Klaus Schwab said in his opening remarks that “investing into a greener and therefore more sustainable economy” should be one of the main objectives of the conference attendees.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen likewise affirmed during her remarks that policymakers would endeavor to “reach net zero” carbon emissions despite energy shortfalls worsened by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Member states of the European Union, many of which heavily regulate fossil fuel production to combat climate change, were forced to scramble for new power supplies after Russia severed natural gas shipments last year and the Nord Stream pipeline system sustained unprecedented damage from an unknown actor.
Nations in Africa, Asia, and South America are meanwhile witnessing elevated energy prices, which have reduced agricultural production as farmers struggle to afford fuel and fertilizer. Protesters in Sri Lanka forced members of their government to resign and flee abroad in response to unsustainable inflation, while activists in Panama have leveraged the economic chaos to promote socialism.