Climate change department sends staff on hundreds of domestic flights

18.2.2010   (Telegraph)
The Government department set up to tackle climate change has paid for more than
1,000 internal flights around Britain despite telling the public to cut down on
air travel.
By Francesca Angelini and Louise Gray

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is in charge of a multimillion
advertising campaign telling the country to cut down on carbon intensive activities,
such as taking domestic flights.

But last year officials from DECC took just under 1,200 domestic flights, including
26 return flights to Manchester that can be reached in two-and-a-half hours by
Staff from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra),
that also urges the public to fly less, took 1,938 domestic flights in 2008/09.

The Government spent £35,000 on offsetting the flights, for example by paying
for trees to be planted, and insisted all internal flights are kept to a minimum.

But environmental groups and opposition politicians said the officials should
be leading by example before preaching on climate change.

Vicky Wyatt, a Greenpeace climate campaigner, called the Government “hypocritical”.

"This is another case of ministers saying one thing and doing another,” she said.
"If ministers are serious about tacking climate change, as they frequently assure
us they are, then they could start by not flying to places that are a short hop
away like Manchester and Aberdeen, and which are served by a fast and efficient
rail service."

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat climate change spokesman, said civil servants
should be required to take the most environmentally form of transport as part
of the Civil Service Code.

“I have been calling for a long time for the government to behave more responsibly
in its travel decisions," he said.

Mike Childs, Head of Climate at Friends of the Earth, said everyone needs to
take the train wherever possible if the UK is to meet climate change targets to
cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

"There’s no excuse for flying when there are low-carbon alternatives – the Government
should be showing leadership by swapping planes for trains for all short-haul

DECC, that was set up in October 2008, is in charge of the Act on CO2 campaign
that urges the public to cut emissions from transport in television adverts and
through other forms of communication.

But a spokesman said it was sometimes necessary for Government staff to take
flights, for example to the Shetland Islands.

"DECC has to balance the use of teleconferences and lowest carbon travel methods
with the occasional business need to be somewhere quickly and on the rare occasions
where air travel is unfortunately the only option, all of the carbon emissions
are offset."

Defra said it was policy is to use "the most efficient and economic means of
travel wherever possible" and that staff travelling "are encouraged to explore
rail over air travel where possible." The department has cut the number of flights
by staff from more than 2,000 in 2007/08.

"Where rail travel is not practical we offset any flights," a spokesperson said.  
"Due to the nature of Defra’s work it is sometimes necessary for flights to be
taken to enable international discussions.”
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