Malta was flexing its socialist muscles again this week at the EU’s Transport Council, where Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia shot down a push led by Austria, France, and the Netherlands to tackle, better regulate and charge business aviation for its disproportionate CO2 emissions.
But according to Farrugia, Malta’s fleet of privately-operated jets is far too important for the islands’ connectivity.
“One must keep in mind that business aviation can also serve as an important transportation link in states where, like Malta, options for business transportation are limited,” Farrugia was quoted as saying this week in justification of Malta’s stance.
According to data from Dutch environmental consultancy CE Delft, Malta saw the third-highest amount of private jet flights per capita last year.
Private jets are five to 14 times more polluting than commercial planes on a per passenger basis according to Dutch environmental consultancy CE Delft.
The same report also shows the incredible growth in the number of private flights departing from Malta, which has grown tenfold in just two years – from just 217 in 2020 to 2,034 last year.
And the amount of CO2 emissions from such operations has increased in tandem – from 1,386 tonnes in 2020 to 14,715 tonnes in 2022.
Austria, France, and the Netherlands have, however, expressed an altogether different opinion.
They said in a statement that the “enormously high CO2 emissions per capita” from flying privately is unjust, as it means that a small number of people “cause great harm to the community”.
“Private jet flights are a hobby of the super-rich. But we can’t all pay for it,” said Austrian Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler. “We need stricter rules here. Anyone who damages our climate must also make a fair contribution.”
“This form of air travel has an excessive per capita carbon footprint and is therefore rightfully subject to criticism,” the three ministers wrote.
“In view of this, recent calls for action such as establishing bans on private jet travel are understandable and need to be addressed appropriately.”
Belgium and Ireland are reported to have expressed support for better and stronger environmental regulations on private jets.
But, Farrugia was quoted as adding, it must be ensured that climate action is “geographically just and does not economically impede on economic development, innovation, and the deployment of new technologies”.
The minister’s comment may be difficult to decipher, but Malta’s hands-off approach to cracking down on private jet emissions is a matter of protecting a relatively new and quickly-growing sector of the economy.
Where are they flying?
The most frequently used route for private aviation for last year’s 2,034 private jet departures left for London (207) which was followed closely by Mitiga, Libya. After that was Nice, France (138).
From the data available, there were also 118 private jet flights out to the Sicilian destinations of Comiso, Catania and Palermo.
London and Nice were the most popular destinations for private jets also in 2021, followed by Madrid.
‘Unfair luxury emissions of the super-rich’
Speaking in Luxembourg Thursday, French transport minister Clement Beaune said, “This is an area where we can symbolically show how we can work together to combat emissions.”
The view was echoed by Belgian mobility minister Georges Gilkinet, who said it was necessary for “everybody to pay the right price for their means of transport”.
“Our citizens would not be able to understand if a minority using private jets would be able to use these planes without any limitations, with a disproportionate impact on the climate,” he said.
“We have to show that climate efforts are shared out fairly, especially one year on from the explosion in energy prices.”
“This is another missed opportunity to target the unfair luxury emissions of the super-rich,” says Magdalena Heuwieser, spokesperson for Stay Grounded – a global network of more than 200 organisations aimed at reducing air traffic.
“But no need to wait for the EU level to ban private jets. As the success in Amsterdam shows, bans can also be implemented at airports as well as country level.”
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is planning to stop private jet flights at certain times of day in a bid to reduce emissions from 2025. France, which recently banned short-haul domestic flights, is also looking to reduce private jet travel through heavy taxation and restrictions.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is planning to stop private jet flights at certain times of day from 2025 to reduce emissions. France, which recently banned short-haul domestic flights, is also looking to reduce private jet travel through heavy taxation and restrictions.