Government to offset carbon emissions for ministers' flights


Every flight by a minister or civil servant on government business will be offset by payments into funds that help developing countries cut their carbon emissions, under a new scheme.

The announcement yesterday is designed to end criticism that ministers have been preaching the importance of tackling climate change while adding to the problem with their frequent flights abroad.

Environmentalists welcomed the move, but warned that it will have only a minimal effect on the problem of the world's ever-expanding air traffic, which is the fastest growing source of carbon emissions from the developed countries.

The Chancellor Gordon Brown has resisted pressure to increase flight taxes or put an extra tax on every aircraft that takes off from a UK airport. It is feared that increasing the cost of flights would have only a limited effect on the number of people who travel by air, with the worst hit being those families who can only afford low-budget holidays.

But ministers believe they have to set an example if the UK is to retain its leading role in worldwide negotiations over combating climate change. After last July's Gleneagles summit, where Tony Blair pushed climate change to the top of the agenda, the organisers paid £50,000 to development projects in Africa to offset the cost to the environment of ferrying the leaders of the world's richest nations to and from Scotland.

The Cabinet Office issues details every year of how often ministers have travelled abroad. When the next set of figures comes out in the summer, they are expected to show that ministerial and civil service air travel is equivalent approximately to 100,000 flights from London to New York.

Last year's figures showed that Mr Blair had been abroad 21 times in the previous year, using a mixture of Royal Squadron and charter flights. The Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett was nicknamed "air miles Margaret " when it emerged that she had made 26 trips abroad and had used the Queen's Flight for no fewer than 18 of them. The Liberal Democrats calculated that her journeys would have sent 31 tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

Friends of the Earth aviation campaigner Tony Bosworth said: "The Government can't put its house in order by just offsetting its emissions ­ it must also urgently review its aviation policies. The runaway growth of aviation threatens to make it virtually impossible to meet our long-term climate targets. Ministers must abandon plans to allow a massive expansion in UK airports and increase air passenger duty (airport departure tax) as a first step to fair taxation of the industry."

The Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Chris Huhne said: "Voluntary agreements must be welcomed if they are to raise awareness of the environmental damage caused by aviation. However, we must remember that they are a sticking plaster solution that does nothing to address the real problems of growing demand and growing emissions. An initial step would be to scrap air passenger duty and replace it with an emissions charge on each aircraft taking off."

The Climate Change minister Elliott Morley appealed to British tourists travelling abroad for Easter to become more aware of the environment impact of their journeys, and to consider offsetting them with a contribution to the Travel Foundation. The Foundation, set up with the support of holiday companies aims to encourage "sustainable tourism". It promotes measures such as low-energy technology in hotels and better insulation.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
Life and Style
love + sex
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Engineer - Managed Services Provider

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Eng...

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot