“The environmental impact of private jets is largely underestimated”

Din recent months, many voices have been raised to demand stricter supervision, taxation, or even the banning of private jets. This summer, the debate focused on the private jets of billionaires and widened, at the start of the school year, with the trip by plane from PSG to Nantes, while the Loire-Atlantique prefecture is only two hours from TGV from the capital. After Julien Bayou, national secretary of EELV, Clément Beaune, the delegate minister in charge of transport, declared himself in favor of more coercive measures. These proposals are however attacked on the grounds that they are more a matter of communication and moral posture than of a real policy to fight against global warming. Christophe Béchu, Minister for Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, stated in particular that “ecology is not the buzz”.

From the strict point of view of CO emissions2, the removal of private jets would indeed have limited effectiveness. In France, according to data from the Ministry of Ecological Transition, domestic and international air transport accounted for 5.3% of national greenhouse gas emissions, where the share of private jets is around 4% (compared to 71 % for commercial flights). Based on this analysis of the direct cost of private jets alone, the ban would lead to a 0.2% reduction in carbon emissions, which is considered anecdotal by critics of coercive measures targeting private jets. All of this would only be “buzz”.

Integrate a cooperative logic

However, this calculation only includes a small part of the ecological cost of private jets. Beyond the direct costs – the emissions produced by the flight itself – there are indeed indirect costs, which cover all those linked to the very existence of these flights. These are mainly costs due to interpersonal trust and, by extension, the behavior of all other French citizens. A very large body of studies in economics and experimental psychology shows that altruistic behavior obeys a logic of conditionality. Humans know how to show altruism – they donate blood, send money to NGOs, give time for the common good – but they do so all the more willingly when they feel they are not the only ones to contribute. In other words, humans cooperate “on condition” that others cooperate. Conversely, they stop cooperating if they have clues that some are not doing their part. To be accepted, public policies and social standards must therefore integrate this cooperative logic.

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