Skift Take

Swift has come under scrutiny for her private jet usage as the wider aviation industry grapples with uncomfortable environmental questions.

Will Taylor Swift make it to the Super Bowl on time to see boyfriend Travis Kelce play? Swifties are counting on it and the Japan Embassy in the U.S. says yes. 

But doing so means using a private jet — and a lot of carbon emissions.

A private jet emits at least 10 times more carbon emissions compared to a commercial jetliner, according to a study from the Institute of Policy Studies, a progressive think tank based in Washington, D.C. 

Swift just sold one of her jets, a Dassault Falcon 900. That leaves her Falcon 7x, which uses around 394 gallons of fuel per hour, according to Jet Advisors, a firm that helps people sell and acquire private jets.  

A Boeing 777 burns more, around 2,500 gallons per hour, but carries up to 368 passengers. That’s around seven gallons burned per hour for each passenger.

Swift’s travel between Los Angeles, Tokyo and Las Vegas on the Falcon 900 could have released up to 200,000 pounds of carbon emissions, according to an estimate by the Associated Press. The estimate is based on the assumption that she’d be flying 19,400 miles. 

What Are Carbon Credits?

To help reduce the environmental burden, Swift’s team purchased double the carbon credits to offset the emissions generated by her Eras Tour, a spokesperson told the AP. 

But these green initiatives aren’t popular with everyone and its benefits are a source of intense debate.

Carbon credits and carbon offsets are terms that are often used interchangeably. Essentially, they are used to compensate the emissions generated, according to the London School of Economics

Common examples include replanting trees in the rainforest or introducing energy-efficient methods to impoverished communities. Swift’s spokesperson did not share additional details of the carbon credits used. 

Do Carbon Credits Work?

The effectiveness of carbon offsets and credits is unclear. An investigation from ProPublica found that many of the organizations that spearhead these carbon-reducing projects overstated the impact of their emissions reductions.

Meanwhile, an analysis from The Guardian and Corporate Accountability, a non-profit watchdog, concluded that the vast majority of carbon reducing projects — 78% — could be “categorised as likely junk.”

And this doesn’t just apply to private jet owners. Commercial airlines often offer carbon offsets that customers can buy when purchasing airfares. These typically go towards projects in developing countries, according to Michael Schneider, the assistant director of aviation environment at the International Air Transport Association. 

“I can, as a project developer, sell those to organizations that have, maybe, difficulties to reduce themselves,” Schneider said. “And the aviation sector is a hard-to-abate sector.”

However, airlines have faced criticism for their use of offsets and credits, with some critics labeling the practice as “greenwashing.” Delta Air Lines faced a class-action lawsuit after it claimed it was the “first carbon neutral airline.” 

Across the Atlantic, a U.K. advertising watchdog asked Air France, Lufthansa and Etihad to take down ads on Google that touted their commitment to environmental sustainability through “green fares” and offsets. 

A Temporary Solution?

Schneider said the use of offsets and credits are seen as a temporary solution for the airline industry as it works toward carbon neutrality. Schneider said the IATA works closely with the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization to develop standards for carbon offsets that airlines can use. 

Nicholas Jammes, the IATA associate director of sustainability communications, added that airlines are looking more toward sustainable aviation fuel and fuel-efficient technology to reduce their emissions rather than carbon offsets and credits. 

“It’s important to notice that offsetting is not the main way of reducing emissions for airlines,” Jammes said. “It’s what’s used at the moment as technology develops, as sustainable aviation fuel becomes more available and hydrogen and electric — all those things are happening in parallel.”

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Tags: private jets, super bowl 2024, sustainability, taylor swift

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