by Michael Bastasch and Chris White
Big businesses largely came out in support of the Paris Agreement on global warming, but most contacted by The Daily Caller News Foundation were silent on whether they would give up flying private jets.
TheDCNF wanted to test the commitment of big companies, foundations and outspoken activists who back the Paris accord. The question: Would you support a ban on private jet travel to help stem global warming?
Most companies and individuals TheDCNF reached out to did not respond, including Facebook, Apple, Google and other companies that often tout their “green image.” Not even former Vice President Al Gore, the father of climate activism, responded to TheDCNF’s question.
In fact, all but two of the 26 corporations were silent when asked by TheDCNF if they would support a ban on private jets to help cut greenhouse gas emissions in line with what the United Nations says is needed to meet the Paris accord. TheDCNF asked a total of 31 companies, foundations and individuals if they would support a private jet ban.
To keep projected global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the main goal of the Paris accord, the U.N. says emissions need to fall drastically. The U.N. says the world is currently on track for 3 degrees Celsius of warming.
The U.N. calls for a $122 trillion restructuring of the global economy to keep global warming within the limits of the Paris accord, which is likely to fall heavily on working class and poor people who can least afford higher energy costs.
In that light, TheDCNF wanted to know if those pushing climate policies would be willing to give up private jets — something no one actually needs since commercial flights are so widely available.
CEOs Love Their Private Jet Perks
Facebook and Google are just two of the thousands of companies that signed the “We Are Still In” pledge formed in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord in 2020.
The group is led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and boasts big corporations and U.S. states as signatories. The pledge is meant to show that prominent individuals, companies and states will “not retreat from the global pact to reduce emissions and stem the causes of climate change,” according to its website.
However, many of the big companies committed to the goals of the Paris accord in recent years have been criticized offering the use of their private jets to chief executives.
Facebook, for example, signed the pledge, but did not respond to TheDCNF’s question if it would support banning private jets to help meet the Paris accord.
A 2016 Financial Times (FT) investigation into corporate spending on private jets found that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “billed Facebook for a combined $1.2m of personal flights in 2013 and 2014” making him “one of the top 10 spenders in both years.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook is reportedly forced to fly private jets for security reasons, and while Microsoft executives didn’t receive corporate jet perks, co-founder Bill Gates owns a massive private jet, a Bombardier BD-700. A representative of Microsoft asked TheDCNF for more information about a proposed private jet ban, but never followed up.
Not every company TheDCNF contacted signed the “We Are Still In” pledge, but all have publicly backed the Paris accord. Most did not respond to TheDCNF, but two did.
“The issue at hand is not the use of private planes, but the fuel supply of planes,” said Michelle Mendiola, a spokeswoman for Virgin. Mendiola gave examples of what Virgin, through its airline Virgin Atlantic, had done to invest in green jet fuel.
“The real impact on climate change will be brought about by making alternative jet fuel more commercially viable and the development of more efficient commercial fleets,” said Mendiola, whose boss Richard Branson is one of the most outspoken corporate CEOs when it comes to global warming.
“Munich Re has no private jet, therefore that’s not a real topic for us. And as you already mentioned, it won’t have a big impact on emissions over all,” spokesman Stefan Straub told TheDCNF. However, Straub did not respond to a follow-up question about whether or not Munich Re leased private jets.
What About Al Gore And Mike Bloomberg?
TheDCNF also reached out to Bloomberg through his philanthropic group, Bloomberg Philanthropies, but never got a response to a proposal banning private jets. The billionaire philanthropist is considering a run for president in 2020, and has a history of making trips to Bermuda and elsewhere aboard his fleet of jets.
Bloomberg also owned a $4.5 million, six-seat Agusta SPA A109S helicopter. He kept the machine at the Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey with his private planes, The New York Times reported in 2012.
TheDCNF also asked Tom Steyer, through his political organization NextGen Climate Action, about banning private jets. TheDCNF got no response, despite Steyer making his name opposing the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Likewise, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did not respond to TheDCNF’s question about banning private jets. The Microsoft co-founder currently leads a coalition of billionaires who are investing in clean energy technologies.
Climate activist and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who joined the “People’s Climate March” in New York City in 2016, did not reply to TheDCNF’s question. TheDCNF attempted to contact DiCaprio though his private foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
However, “The Revenant” actor burned more than 17,000 gallons of jet fuel in 2016 during a round trip from France to New York City to accept an environmental award at the Riverkeeper Fishermen’s Ball. DiCaprio flew back one day later to France to attend an AIDS benefit gala.
Representatives for Gore also did not respond to TheDCNF. Gore told CNN in 2017 he didn’t own a private jet, but in 2013 admitted to “sometimes” chartering a private jet. The former vice president has also been criticized for his enormous home energy usage, which is estimated to be 34 times the average American household.
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