By Cecile Mantovani and Joanna Plucinska
GENEVA (Reuters) -Around 100 climate protesters demanding a ban on private jets disrupted flights at Geneva Airport on Tuesday and blocked entry to an aircraft exhibition at Europe's flagship business jet event.
The protest took place on the tarmac where business jets from companies like Airbus and Gulfstream were on display, with activists carrying signs saying "#BanPrivateJets" and "WARNING: Private jets drown our hope."
They sat below the jets in bright yellow vests and blocked entry to prevent potential buyers from getting on the aircraft as security scrambled to clear them from the area.
Four people were treated for injuries, including demonstrators and security, Geneva Airport said in a statement. It said all flights were suspended for an hour, with delays expected throughout the day.
The protest took place as the industry conference near the airport marked the first sale of the world’s largest twin-engined jetliner as a private plane.
Boeing's future 777-9 is designed to carry around 400 passengers as a commercial airliner. Boeing did not disclose the buyer nor the value of the deal.
Climate activists have long taken issue with the high carbon emissions per person associated with private jets as estimates show the use of private jets has almost doubled globally in the last two decades.
"In one hour alone, a private jet can emit up to one tonne of CO2 - that is double the average yearly consumption of one human being living in Africa," said Klara Maria Schenk, a transport campaigner for environmental group Greenpeace.
The industry says it is doing everything it can to boost its use of sustainable aviation fuel, which produces fewer carbon emissions than traditional jet fuel, and to bring in innovations to make flying more efficient.
The sector acknowledges that it has an image problem when it comes to its climate impact, but executives at the conference repeatedly pointed to their commitment to decarbonise.
"We need to work a little bit more here in Europe, because European bodies are not totally convinced…it is really a little bit against business aviation," said Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, at a pre-conference panel on sustainability on Monday.
"We need to collectively try to explain to them the use of the business and the importance of it in the resurgence of the economy."
On Tuesday, the Palexpo hall where the conference is taking place displayed a number of green innovations, including an electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL).
Another three dozen protesters on bicycles, led by environmental group, actif-trafiC, stood in front of the venue carrying banners in French saying "Private aviation kills."
(Writing by Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Emelia Sithole and Conor Humphries)