Paris-Ryad on July 17. Ryad-Marrakech, the next day. Marrakech-Paris, July 19. The circle is complete. In three days, the Bouygues group’s private plane will have flown 14 hours and 47 minutes for an estimated carbon footprint of 70 tonnes of CO2. “This is the equivalent of the emissions of an average Frenchman in seven years”, specifies @IflyBernard.
Behind this Twitter account, launched last April, we find Thomas *, 35, engineer in aeronautics with ecological fiber. Since April, he has been tracking private jets owned by billionaires or their companies. Including that of Martin Bouygues therefore. “But also those of Bernard Arnault, François-Henri Pinault, both of the Bolloré group, and that again of the JCDecaux group”, he lists.
The most complicated? “Find registrations”
The method is simple to listen to. “The most complicated, in the end, is to find the registration of these private jets rarely in the name of these billionaires, begins Thomas. But once you have this information, all you have to do is enter it into free access sites, such as globe.adsbexchange.com, which publishes the flight data that each plane must transmit every second for air traffic control. Then, it suffices to cross the hours of flight time, the fuel consumption of the aircraft and the fuel/CO2 emission ratio to have a very good order of magnitude of the carbon footprint of the journeys made. “Only downside: you never know who, exactly, is on board the planes. “But I make sure that these devices are indeed the property of these fortunes, which makes them responsible for their emissions”, estimates Thomas.
He is not the only one to track and publish on the networks the stopovers of the private jets of billionaires. @laviondebernard – another nod to the boss of LVMH, the world’s third-richest – has been doing the same since May, on the French side, following the private jets of Bernard Arnault and two others from the Total Energies group.
In both cases, the inspiration came @Elonjetthe Twitter account of the American Jack Sweeney, with 500,000 subscribers and which has been following the movements of the private plane of the boss of Tesla and Space X since 2020. “We had to decline the concept in France, even more on time where politicians are increasing calls to the population for more energy sobriety,” explains Thomas.
This was the case again on Wednesday with Olivier Véran, government spokesperson, asking the French to cut off WiFi or turn down the air conditioning a little now that temperatures tend to drop, to turn off the light in unused rooms. “We cannot ask the entire population to make efforts, without demanding even greater goods from the wealthiest French people as a priority”, insists Thomas, referring to the Greenpeace and Oxfam report of February 2022 Via their financial assets, the 63 French billionaires emit as much as that of 49.4% of French households, calculated the two NGOs.
Same speech for the two Frenchmen behind @laviondebernard, a boy and a girl under 30, do they introduce themselves. “We hope that making these thefts public will help create a social momentum, to demand concrete political actions, they say. Everyone must achieve two tonnes of CO2 per year, including billionaires. Some have a longer way to go, except that the current economic system is completely on their side, and even values their destructive behavior. »
Private jet flights that emit ten times more carbon
The use of the private jet is then to be seen as one of the symbols of this disproportionate negative impact on the climate that the richest can have. “A private jet flight emits ten times more carbon than a commercial air link, mainly because it takes very few passengers on board”, points out Pierre Leflaive, transport manager at the Climate Action Network, federation of French environmental NGOs. . However, despite the climate emergency, the use of these private planes is not weakening in Europe. “CO2 emissions from private jets in Europe increased by almost a third (31%) between 2005 and 2019, faster than emissions from commercial aviation”, illustrates Transport & Environment (T&E) in a report from May 2021.
One in ten flights departing from France in 2019 was on board a private jet, T & E also pointed out. And half of these flights by private plane travel less than 500 km, “the operational distance where are the least efficient and therefore the most polluting”. This is mainly the type of journeys that can be found on the @IflyBernard and Bernard’s plane accounts, where the planes of these billionaires multiply flights over very short distances, sometimes several hours a day. “The most surprising thing is that the stopover times are often very short, criticizes Thomas, who was surprised at the Paris-Nantes flight made Monday by the private plane of the JCDecaux group, just to stay an hour there before turning back. .
But for Thomas, the palm undoubtedly goes to Bernard Arnault. “I analyzed the routes of his jet over the last two years,” he says. The busiest route is Paris-Brussels with fifteen round trips over the period. This is the height of absurdity: these 30 flights of an average duration of 35 minutes generated 81 tonnes of CO2. »
The “name and shame”, the best tool to bring people to their senses?
Should we then simply ban these private jet flights? “It would be complicated, if only legally,” replies Pierre Leflaive. For its part, T&E proposes at least banning short domestic private jet flights, in the same way that France has (timidly) started to do so on commercial flights. “Taxes on kerosene and flights should be imposed on private jets running on fossil fuels, depending on the distance traveled and the weight of the device”, continued the NGO, still in its May 2021 report. Here again, Pierre Leflaive points to the limits of the impact of these wallet attacks on the ultra-rich.
There remains then the “name and shame”, literally “name and cover with shame”. This is the whole bet that @IflyBernard and @laviondebernard are making by displaying the polluting lifestyle of the richest. And it works ? Last May, Bernard Arnault’s private jet had a total of 18 flights for a carbon footprint of 176 tonnes, according to calculations by L’avion de Bernard. Or the equivalent of that issued by an average Frenchman… in 17 years. “But since the beginning of July, on the other hand, this plane has remained grounded, observes Thomas who cherishes the hope that the billionaire has taken good resolutions to take care of his image.
“What we want is to open the debate on this question, we explain at @laviondebernard. Moreover, we see that our message has been taken up by some politicians, it is already a good thing. »
*At his request, his first name has been changed.