Helena Bennett, Senior Policy Adviser at Green Alliance, said: “Private jets are a disaster for the climate. A single private flight emits two tons of carbon emissions, which is a quarter of the carbon the average European produces in an entire year.”
“From presidents and prime ministers sitting around the world to business people traveling to conferences that can be done via Zoom, we need to travel more sustainably.
“There are many alternative approaches that the wealthy and important can use, including trains and coaches, when necessary, and economy class flights, which are responsible for much lower emissions per person.”
Many of Mrs. von der Leyen’s trips could have been taken on private jets in more eco-friendly commercial options, such as a Eurostar train to London or a car to Paris.
EU rules state that Europeans are allowed to use “air taxis” in the absence of viable commercial alternatives, “scheduling restrictions” or security concerns.
The commission said Ms von der Leyen flew to Glasgow on a biofuel plane. A spokeswoman added: “An air taxi used only when necessary, to enable attendance at meetings in various places on very busy dates.”
Ms von der Leyen traveled thousands of miles this summer to visit European capitals to sign off on coronavirus recovery plans, and made the 886-mile round trip to St Ives for the G7 summit.
Last February, the German and her 26 fellow commissioners made a 7,000-mile round trip to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to meet with the African Union.
On a mission to boost EU access, Josep Borrell, the bloc’s top foreign diplomat, flew on a private jet to the Uzbek capital Tashkent, even though Turkish Airlines operates regular flights from Brussels. The Spanish official also used the “air taxi” system to travel to Berlin, Madrid and Turkey.
“Many flights, especially in Europe, can easily be replaced by train journeys, which is an easily available and climate-friendly alternative. We must completely change the way we move, encouraging and enabling travel that prioritizes sustainability and the future of humanity,” a Greenpeace EU spokesperson said.
Boris Johnson will return to London on a private jet when he leaves the conference in Glasgow later this week.
Train journeys from Glasgow to London take just four and a half hours, but Downing Street said Johnson had “significant time constraints” meaning the train was not an option.