EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, who has made a “green” transition the centrepiece of her mandate, has been questioned for using private jets while urging less carbon-fuelled travel.
Her spokesman on Thursday defended her chartered aircraft flights on some trips within Europe, saying she holds down a job “where relations with partners who are other heads of state and government are very important and they require a bit more than simple Zoom contacts”.
Journalists asked spokesman Eric Mamer about the optics of von der Leyen sometimes flying by private jet, especially after fronting up at the COP26 UN climate conference in Britain this week to underline how “green” the EU was becoming.
Mamer pointed out that the European Commission president had “important constraints” on bringing 27 member states to consensus on major issues within short timeframes.
He also noted that the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on travel, severely curtailing the availability of commercial planes and trains, had to be taken into account.
Mamer said the Commission went out of its way to ensure the company used for the charter flights offset the carbon emissions from von der Leyen’s trips.
He added that the EU executive was also “exploring” greater use of flights running on biofuel — such as the one von der Leyen used to get to the COP26 summit.