Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry defended business and government leaders who travel to high-profile climate summits on gas-guzzling private jets.
In an interview with Yahoo News, Kerry took issue with criticism levied against leaders who fly on private jets despite lofty climate ambitions, saying those individuals are “working harder” than most to fight climate change. He also echoed an argument defending private jet travel he has previously used, suggesting so-called carbon offsets justify such high-carbon-footprint travel.
“They offset — they buy offsets, they offset, and they are working harder than most people I know to be able to try to effect this transition,” he told the outlet late last week.
Kerry noted that he has spoken about private jet travel and carbon offsets with attendees of the World Economic Forum, an annual summit in Davos, Switzerland, where climate change is usually a central topic. Attendees of the summit this year were criticized after they took at least 150 private jet trips to regional airports near Davos in January.
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Greenpeace campaigner Klara Maria Schenk blasted officials for flying on “ultra-polluting, socially inequitable private jets to discuss climate and inequality behind closed doors.”
Despite defending his fellow world leaders, Kerry has opted against flying on private jets since assuming his current position at the State Department. He notably flew commercial to both United Nations climate summits that have taken place during his tenure as climate envoy.
“I didn’t fly private while I was in this job,” Kerry added in the interview with Yahoo News. “I’ve had one, maybe two, private flights, which were military flights in order to get to China during COVID, where we were forced into that, but I fly commercially.”
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Fox News Digital recently reported that Kerry’s family sold its private jet, a Gulfstream GIV-SP, last year amid intense criticism over its carbon footprint. As of July, the month before the sale occurred, the jet had made a total of 48 trips lasting more than 60 hours and emitted an estimated 715,886 pounds, or 325 metric tons, since President Biden appointed Kerry to the position.
Although the plane was sold and Kerry has mainly traveled on commercial flights since January 2021, he argued in 2019 that his private jet use allows him to “fly to meet with people and get things done.” He added that he had devoted his life to fighting climate change and that he offsets his carbon consumption.
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A carbon offset is a reduction of carbon emissions aimed at counteracting increased emissions elsewhere.
Private jet travel, which is by far the most carbon-intensive mode of transportation, emits 10 times more carbon than commercial planes and 50 times more carbon than trains, according to a 2021 report from the group Transport & Environment.