UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Comparing the Carbon Footprint of Private Jet Travel and Other Modes of Transport to COP28

Professor Jacqueline McGlade co-authors this paper about modes of travel to COP28 and climate impact, arguing for transparency, accountability and informed choices in travel decisions


7 November 2023

Authors: Jacqueline McGlade, Jacqueline Carole Roberts; Simon Chin-Yee; Richard Taylor; Mark Maslin; Lisa Vanhala; Penlope Yaguma; Priti Parikh.

The annual Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings are pivotal events for collective action to combat climate change. This year,  as world leaders, government officials and observers convene in Dubai, UAE, for COP28, climate justice will be a central theme. In light of these negotiations, we present an updated version of UCL’s carbon footprint calculator to compare different modes of transport from the UK to COP28 in Dubai. Analysing private jet data from the 2022 COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, we then investigate the carbon footprint of private jet travel to COP28. The carbon footprint calculator demonstrates the carbon inefficiency of air travel compared to alternative modes of transport to COP28. As the most polluting form of transport, the carbon footprint of private jets is disproportionately high. We find that for a journey from London to Dubai, private jet travel is 9 times more polluting than a commercial flight, 35 times more than train transport and 52 times more than coach travel. Given the primary objective of COP conferences to discuss and negotiate climate change policies and actions, the use of private jets by prominent individuals undermines the core mission of these discussions. The research calls for transparency, accountability and informed choices in travel decisions to align with climate change commitments. Additionally, we explore the significance of the chosen COP venue in promoting equity, the associated carbon footprint and the influence of the hosting nation on negotiations.

Read the paper