Numerous posts on social media criticised delegates for travelling by private jet to the COP27 in Egypt — the latest in a series of recurrent claims targeting the UN climate summit.
Posts and reports included various estimates for the number of such planes bringing delegates to the gathering in the beach resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Climate Action Against Disinformation, a group that analyses trends in false information on social media, said in a report on Thursday that narratives of supposed "hypocrisy and elitism" were one of the main focusses of climate-sceptic messages during COP27.
400 private jets
Egyptian sources corroborated widespread claims that some 400 private jets landed during COP27. Some media cited lower estimates by flight-trackers, though there may have been private flights that were not logged by monitoring services.
One misleading post in Spanish claimed there were as many as 1,500 private jets. It was accompanied by an old photograph of planes from an aviation forum in Las Vegas.
"More than 400 private jets landed in the past few days in Egypt," a source close to the Egyptian aviation authorities, who asked not to be named, told AFP on Thursday.
"There was a meeting ahead of COP27, and officials were expecting those jets and made some arrangements in Sharm el-Sheikh airport to welcome those planes."
On November 6, Ahmed Moussa, a talk-show host close to the Egyptian leadership, boasted on air that "Sharm el-Sheikh's airport welcomed more than 300 private jets. The airport was renovated with more corridors in order to welcome the guests of COP27."
Criticisms of private jets also surged during the last UN climate summit, COP26, in Glasgow in November 2021. Estimates cited in media for the number of jets used at that event varied from less than 200 to around 400.
AFP fact-checked posts from that period in various languages that showed a photograph of planes parked on a runway, claiming they were used by leaders at COP26. Reverse-image searches revealed the image was actually taken years before and showed planes at an airport in New Orleans.
However, it was not just peddlers of false information criticising the COP27 delegates.
On November 5, hundreds of climate activists, some on bicycles, occupied an apron for private jets at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, calling for such planes to be banned. The protest was organised by environmental groups Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion.
Private jet emissions
Passengers on private jets produce far more planet-warming emissions per capita than those on commercial flights.
According to the European clean transport campaign group Transport and Environment, a private jet can emit two tonnes of carbon dioxide in an hour and is five to 14 times more polluting per passenger than a commercial plane.
An online emissions calculator provided by the International Civil Aviation Organisation indicates that a passenger on a commercial flight in premium class would produce around half a tonne of CO2 overall during a flight from London to Sharm el-Sheikh.
There are more than 33,000 participants registered at the COP27, where delegates are holding high-level talks on scaling up finance for developing countries to green their economies and prepare for global warming impacts.
Scientists say climate change caused by humans burning fossil fuels is worsening devastating disasters including floods, heatwaves and droughts, likely to intensify in the decades to come if emissions are not cut.
"Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish," UN chief Antonio Guterres told the summit on November 7.