politics transport

Excess Baggage: the government’s flying habits

It likes to claim that it’s the world’s most climate-savvy government, and that the UK’s CO2 targets are the most robust. Each department has a low carbon strategy, and the both the Labour cabinet and Conservative front bench all signed up to 10:10. So how come the government takes so many domestic flights?

The WWF recently sent Freedom of Information requests to 22 government departments, asking for details about flights. The results are rather surprising, and are summarised in WWF’s Excess Baggage report (pdf).

Most striking to me is that 90% of flights are domestic – 112 000 flights in total. Even the Department of Energy and Climate change took 676 domestic flights. Home Office officials took 1,000 flights between London and Manchester, a journey that only takes two hours on the train.

Not that the report is entirely bad news – DEFRA has been leading by example and almost halved its number of flights since 2006. The Scottish Government has cut its flying by almost a third in the same time. If the whole government followed the practice of the best performing departments, they would save 59,000 tonnes of CO2 and £116 million over the next three years.

Obviously governments need to fly, but in an age of climate change and deficits, it’s something that could be taken more seriously. There are plenty of things that could be done. Taking the train is an obvious one. DEFRA has invested in video-conferencing. And measuring travel properly should be mandatory – of the 22 departments surveyed, six were unable to provide detailed figures on flights.

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