Three days before this year’s conference begins, it was revealed that last year the number of private jet flights to the Swiss town of Davos doubled during the week of the meeting.
The forum (the WEF) says it is committed to the 1.5C Paris climate target, prompting Greenpeace International to brand the flights “a distasteful masterclass in hypocrisy”.
The researchers found that during last year’s World Economic Forum week, 1,040 private jet flights arrived and departed out of airports serving luxury ski resort Davos, with about every second flight attributed to the meeting.
More than half – 53 per cent - were short-haul flights below 470 miles that could have been train journeys, Greenpeace said, and 38 per cent were under 300 miles. The shortest flight was only 21 km.
Dutch environmental consultancy CE Delft, which carried out the study for Greenpeace International, said all the private jet flights to and from airports serving Davos that week created 9,700 tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to that of 350,000 cars.
Researchers attribute most of the climate-damaging emissions to private flights by WEF participants. Emissions from private jet flights quadrupled during the one week of the meeting compared with the weeks before and afterwards.
Klara Maria Schenk, transport campaigner for Greenpeace, said: “Europe is experiencing the warmest January days ever and communities around the world are grappling with extreme weather events supercharged by the climate crisis.
“Davos has a perfectly adequate railway station, but still these people can’t even be bothered to take the train for a trip as short as 21 km.
“Given that 80 per cent of the world’s population has never even flown, but suffers from the consequences of aviation emissions, and that the WEF claims to be committed to the 1.5C Paris climate target, this annual private jet bonanza is a distasteful masterclass in hypocrisy.”
According to a study by Transport & Environment, private jets are between five and 14 times more polluting than commercial planes per passenger, and 50 times more polluting than trains.
But they are not subject to controls in the EU. Greenpeace wants a ban on private jets and short-haul flights where there are train routes in the EU.
Hundreds of global heads of state, finance ministers, chief executives and activists are due to fly to Davos on Monday for this year’s five-day get-together, where the effect of Russia’s war on Ukraine will be high on the agenda.
Protesters against inequality are expected to turn out in 30 countries next week, calling on governments to tax the rich more.
Jenny Ricks, of the worldwide Fight Inequality Alliance movement, said: “The crises of scandalous inequality and the climate emergency need radical action, not champagne and caviar.
“As billionaire wealth reaches new heights, ordinary people who are working, caring and endlessly contributing to society are struggling to even put food on the table.”
The Independent has asked the WEF to respond to the research and criticism.