Singer Taylor Swift Photo: AFP
From a 14-minute flight on Drake’s private plane to Taylor Swift’s carbon footprint, celebrities are struggling to shake off a storm over their emissions amid the climate crisis.
Fury erupted in July when reality star Kylie Jenner shared with her 364 million Instagram users a photo of her and her partner, rapper Travis Scott, in front of two jets with the caption: “You want mine or the Yours;”
Critics on social media quickly attacked Jenner, calling her a “climate criminal.”
Then last week, British sustainability marketing company Yard named and shamed the “worst private jet CO2 offenders” among celebrities.
Usually a regular at the top of the music charts, US pop star Taylor Swift headlined the incredible list, sparking an outpouring of social media outrage, memes and jokes that she was using her jet to collect food.
Her jet has flown 170 times since January, with total flight emissions for the year reaching 8,293.54 tons, or 1,184.8 times more than the average person, Yard said.
In second place was boxer Floyd Mayweather, followed by rapper Jay-Z.
Jenner’s half-sister, reality star Kim Kardashian, came in seventh, having recently shown off her cashmere jet interior. Rapper Scott was 10th while Jenner herself was 19th.
The Yard cautioned that its list was “not definitive of the biggest offenders” as it is based on the “Celebrity Jets” Twitter account, which tracks flights thanks to public data. It was also impossible to determine whether the stars were in all recorded flights.
“Taylor’s jet is regularly loaned out to other people,” Swift’s publicist told the media outlet.
“To attribute most or all of these trips to her is grossly wrong.”
While Drake missed the top 10 list, the Canadian rapper faced heat on a 14-minute flight between Toronto and Hamilton in July, especially after he said the plane “Air Drake” was empty.
“This is just them moving planes to whatever airport they’re in storage for whoever cares about the logistics… nobody’s getting that flight,” he said on Instagram.
“It’s even worse if it was flying empty,” said Beatrice Jarrige, long-distance mobility project manager at the Shift Project, a nonprofit focused on climate change.
The aviation sector is responsible for 2-3 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.
But a report in May by Transport & Environment, a European non-governmental group, found that the carbon footprint of private jets is five to 14 times higher per passenger compared to commercial flights and 50 times that of passenger trains.
“We’re allowing people to fly climate bombs,” said William Todd, executive director of the clean transport campaign group.
Private jet use has soared since the coronavirus pandemic, with wealthier customers scrambling to avoid cancellations.
Private jet flights are up 7 percent in 2021 compared to 2019, according to aviation data research firm WingX.
In Europe, celebrities using private jets could use the continent’s vast train network for most of their travel, Todts said.
Airplanes “like taxis”
The Celebrity Jets account was created by 19-year-old student Jack Sweeney in 2020 after he started following Elon Musk’s private jet.
He now has 30 accounts following sports stars, Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg.
Sweeney has inspired copycat accounts.
Sebastien, a 35-year-old aerospace engineer who declined to give his real name, set up the ‘I Fly Bernard’ account in April which follows the flights of French billionaires, including Bernard Arnault, head of luxury giant LVMH.
“What I want to condemn is the use of private jets like taxis,” he said, pointing to their multiple domestic and European flights.
Arnault has yet to respond to the online criticism.
Jarrige hopes the anger on social media turns into political action.
“It’s not a total ban on such flights, but the richest should make an effort to be more restrained,” he said, calling for more investment in the railways.
Todts said celebrities can and should do more to encourage the development of biofuels rather than kerosene.
“If they actually use their power to buy clean fuels, it would encourage the industry to develop them,” he said.
The commercial aviation sector said in 2021 that sustainable fuels are “key” to its 2050 carbon neutrality targets.