Greta late than never


The World Economic Forum (WEF) has announced the theme of its 50th meeting which is taking place this week as: ‘Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.’ This is a worthy aim; albeit not as enticing as the 1989 theme of ‘Fun with fondue.’

One of the key speakers is teenage environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg, who arrived in the Swiss town after a 32-hour train journey.

Thunberg will tell the luminaries at Davos that globally we must give up our reliance on fossil fuels as quickly as possible. You can bet that many journalists will report this while adding that many delegates have arrived by private jet.

To be fair, there will be a lot. The WEF brings in a large number of politicians, business people and celebrities. Bloomberg estimates that more than 100 billionaires will be there.

Today (January 20) will see private jet arrivals from: India, China, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Qatar as well as from all over Europe and the US. Yesterday saw aircraft coming from: Ecuador, South Korea and Russia. Of course, Zurich is one of Europe’s busiest private jet airports, so an aircraft arriving in Zurich does not necessarily mean that it is connected to the WEF – there will be almost as many plane spotters at the airport as environmental protestors.

But attacking private aviation is unfair. First, over the course of the past 40 years emissions from private jets have dropped by 40%, and we have committed to reduce this by a further 50% by 2050.

Second, many of the aircraft flying out will be using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) – thanks to a collaboration between Finnish fuel provider Neste and Jet Aviation Zurich. You would have read much about SAF in recent years, and you will read much more this coming year.

It is not just at Zurich on departure that visiting aircraft will be able to make a statement. Under a new initiative, operators departing from three of the more popular business jet departure points in the US will be able to purchase SAF, even if it is not actually available at the airports.

Instead, SAF will be credited against the aircraft and used later in normal operations through Van Nuys Airport, Los Angeles.

It is a powerful statement for the industry to make. But it only works if people know it is happening.

Many column inches will be written this week about the number of private jets arriving at Davos. But it is likely that only the trade press will report on the flights using SAF for their return journeys. Although you can always add it to any comment section under online stories or with letters to editors.

With attention focused on world leaders in Davos and the business jets that brought them there, this is an opportunity not to be missed.