UK climate ministry has flown 612 domestic flights since 2019 | Green policy


Employees of the climate change ministry have carried out 612 domestic flights since June 2019, when the UK enacted the goal of net zero emissions, the figures show.

Of the total flights taken – which are one-way and do not include travel to Northern Ireland – by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), 34 of them were by government ministers.

The BEIS figures come from an access to information request from the office of Kerry McCarthy, Labor MP for Bristol East and shadow minister for green transport. They show that in the six months following the promulgation of the net zero target for 2050 on June 27, 2019, the department carried out 395 domestic flights, while in 2020 the figure was 210. Until present this year, the department carried out seven domestic flights.

In the six months preceding the signing of the law, during the first two quarters of 2019, 779 domestic flights were carried out by the department.

It comes after Cop26 chairman Alok Sharma was accused by opposition parties of undermining environmental efforts and failing to lead by example after reports he had visited 30 countries during of the past seven months.

Downing Street said that in order to “cut emissions and ensure ambitious action ahead of the Cop26 summit” face-to-face talks were essential. They insisted that Sharma had obtained “ambitious action as a result of the discussions he had”.

The UK is preparing to host vital UN climate talks in Glasgow in October and November, when, for the first time since the Paris climate change conference in 2015, countries will set new targets for reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

McCarthy said that as trips to the UK mainland, flights could have been replaced by train travel.

“The government’s hypocrisy on climate change is mind-boggling. Since the UK’s net zero emissions target became law, the very ministry responsible for climate change has taken hundreds of polluting domestic flights that could have been caught by train, ”she said.

“To make matters worse, this government has already increased rail fares and plans to reduce taxes on domestic flights. We desperately need to see climate leadership before Cop26. But if the government is not ready to go green, how is it going to persuade anyone to do it? “

In March, the government proposed to reduce the air passenger tax on domestic flights, while increasing rail fares by 2.6%, a rate above the rate of inflation. A recent survey by the Which? Train tickets on popular UK routes are 50% more expensive than plane tickets, even though trains generate 80% less carbon dioxide emissions.

Among the ministries that responded to FoI’s request, BEIS’s domestic flight numbers for 2019 and 2020 were the highest. So far this year, when the numbers were significantly lower, it was only lower than the Department of Health and Welfare (DHSC), which has recorded eight domestic flights.

Among the other most important departments for domestic flights since the signing of the net zero target were the Ministry of Education, which took 289 domestic flights during the period, the Ministry of the Environment, the ‘Food and Rural Affairs, which took 104, DHSC, which took 62, and Treasury, which took 46.

A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to making the best use of taxpayer resources by minimizing costs and ensuring that the most environmentally friendly means of transport are used wherever possible – and recent figures show that the number of thefts carried out across the government have declined by 28% since 2010.

“However, ministers and officials are often required to travel on government business and although the majority of travel is by train, sometimes flights are necessary.

“For example, in the case of BEIS, travel will include offices in Aberdeen and key parts of the energy sector in Scotland – much of which cannot be transported to and from a day.”

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