Monaco Yacht Buyers Disregard Climate Concerns: “I Cannot Overemphasize Its Importance”

    The Monaco Yacht Show: A Playground for the Ultra-Rich Ignoring Climate Change

    The opulence of the Monaco Yacht Show is undeniable. With yachts worth more than the annual GDP of some small island states, this event showcases the extravagant lifestyles of the ultra-rich. However, the environmental impact of these luxury vessels is rarely a concern for the customers touring their decks.

    Elena Papernaya, an artist eyeing a mid-sized yacht, brushed off any worries about the damage it might do to the climate. Similarly, Kasper Hojgaard, a regional manager for an industrial company, and his friend Lasse Jensen, a pension fund manager, admitted they did not consider climate change at all when chartering yachts.

    The Monaco yacht show is one of the most concentrated displays of wealth in the world, with two-thirds of its residents being millionaires. The port was bustling with over 100 superyachts, complete with submersibles and swimming pools. Private jets and helicopters were available for airport transfers, adding to the extravagance.

    However, the true cost of such luxury is borne by the rest of society. The top 10% of earners in the EU emit 24.5 times more carbon dioxide through their transport than the bottom 10%. The ultra-rich, with their giant yachts, private jets, and fuel-guzzling sports cars, contribute significantly to carbon inequality. Billionaires’ consumption emissions can reach thousands of tonnes per year, with transport being the biggest culprit.

    Despite the damning statistics, many yacht enthusiasts at the show seemed untroubled by their boats’ disproportionate emissions. Christian Largura, an Instagram star and luxury retail site founder, justified his choice of a diesel-powered superyacht, stating that fully electric options were not available for larger vessels.

    The impact of superyachts on the environment cannot be understated. They are the most polluting single objects one can own, surpassing even private jets, according to a study on billionaires’ footprints. Richard Wilk, from the Open Anthropology Institute, emphasized that even mansions on private islands have a lesser impact since they remain in one place.

    During interviews with visitors to the Monaco yacht show, it became apparent that the industry is making small efforts to address environmental concerns amidst growing public pressure. However, the majority of owners and customers interviewed showed little concern for their boats’ emissions.

    Giorgia Covolio, whose husband owns a yacht, admitted that while she understood the need to worry about climate change, she could not stress too much about it. Jennifer Rodriguez echoed this sentiment, pointing out that if influential figures like Bill Gates and Leonardo DiCaprio did not stress about it, neither would she.

    While smaller sailing ships emit relatively low levels of carbon, motor boats consume immense amounts of fuel for long journeys and power-intensive services. The industry spends a quarter of its energy on propulsion and three-quarters on “hotel load,” which includes air conditioning and desalination. Some superyachts consume fuel even when docked because their crews live onboard year-round.

    The trend in the yacht industry mirrors that of the automotive industry, with a push towards larger vessels that burn more fuel. Carmakers flooding the market with SUVs have sold nearly half of all cars last year, according to the IEA. Marketing campaigns that focus on status and power play a significant role in the popularity of these vehicles.

    In the dazzling atmosphere of Monaco’s Port Hercules, most yacht owners and buyers declined to comment on their carbon footprints. Some became hostile and physically threatened the reporter during the interview. Others denied the scientific consensus on climate change caused by human actions.

    While some owners acknowledged their carbon footprints, they lamented the lack of action by others. Frederik, a sustainability student from a yacht-owning family, noted that the industry was highly unsustainable. However, his family had made efforts to shrink their environmental impact by reducing their fleet, installing solar panels and electric batteries, and avoiding dropping heavy anchors in sensitive areas.

    Jonathan, working in luxury management, differentiated between those who bought big yachts to show off and those who valued private family time. He acknowledged the criticism of the industry but shared that his most valuable experiences had happened on a boat.

    Nevertheless, the yacht industry has started paying more attention to sustainability. This year’s Monaco yacht show featured a catamaran covered in solar panels and a sustainability hub for the second consecutive year. Companies showcased efforts to power yachts with electricity and methanol, increase engine and hull efficiency, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

    However, skepticism remains regarding green marketing and buyers’ alignment with it. Crew members on charter yachts stated that while guests might inquire about the source of their water, they showed no concerns about the fossil fuel consumption of the boat.

    The total emissions from the yacht industry, though likely a fraction of the shipping industry’s total, are caused by a significantly smaller group of people engaged in leisure activities. Furthermore, the carbon footprints of the super-rich extend beyond their direct emissions. Their lavish lifestyles, glamourized on social media, inspire others to aspire to similar levels of consumption, often justifying their own polluting habits.

    The disproportionate emissions from the yacht industry reflect a wider issue of inequality and environmental degradation. The stark contrast between individual efforts to reduce carbon footprints and the extravagance on display at the Monaco Yacht Show highlights the urgency of addressing this environmental crisis.

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