'Carbon tax' to compensate for G8 presidency aviation

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The Independent Online

A carbon "tax" will raise £100,000 across Whitehall departments to compensate for the 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide caused by extra air travel associated with Britain's presidency of the G8 and the summit at Gleneagles last year.

The money will go towards environment projects in the developing world over the next three years to offset the harmful effects of the air travel by G8 leaders, but that is seen as a small sum to pay for global warming.

The campaign group Friends of the Earth said: "We think carbon offsetting is an awareness tool, but it is not a solution. The Government needs to reverse its policies allowing growth in aviation, if it is serious about climate change - no Terminal Five at Heathrow, and no expansion at Stansted."

The Government's carbon emissions offsetting scheme may be aimed at showing the world that Tony Blair is serious about tackling global warming but it will not apply to the air travel by the Prime Minister and his ministers between Labour coming into power in 1997 and 2005.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said as part of the cross-government commitment on climate change, all Defra's flights, including those by ministers, were to be offset "at least" from 1 April last year - a year earlier than the rest of Whitehall, which brought in the policy at the start of this month.

Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who is believed to be on an Easter break with her husband, Leo, on the Spanish island of Tenerife, has also given a commitment that all emissions from last year's EU presidency will be offset along with the G8 summit.

Britain is buying "carbon credits" to offset the aviation emissions attributable to the UK delegation flying to last year's UN conference on climate change in Montreal. A township in Kuyasa, South Africa, will be the first project to benefit from the scheme. The money raised for travel associated with the G8 summit will go on installing solar water heaters, ceiling insulation and compact fluorescent light bulbs in thousands of homes in deprived neighbourhoods over the next three years.

As ministers faced accusations of hypocrisy for using jets for short hops, Mrs Beckett's junior environment minister, Elliot Morley, urged holidaymakers to donate towards the Travel Foundation, a voluntary carbon-offsetting scheme set up by operators such as First Choice Holidays and Thomas Cook.