Tony's carbon footprints: Follow these simple steps, Prime Minister, and you too can save the planet

Flights, holidays, they all pump out CO2. Here we reveal the damage Blair is doing - and how he could make amends
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Indy Politics

Tony Blair personally emits more than 700 times as much of the pollution that causes global warming as the average Briton, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. His air travel alone contributes as much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as a medium-sized business.

He also breaks his Government's new official guide to greener living, published last week, which says people should try to reduce flights, take fewer holidays and travel by rail or sea.

The revelations come at a particularly embarrassing time for the Prime Minister, as he is planning to launch a campaign this spring to encourage Britons to change their behaviour to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Yesterday he was attacked by both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat environment spokesmen for failing to set a proper example.

Mr Blair announced last week that the Government would set up a website to "allow people to measure their carbon footprint", so that "you will actually be able to see how much energy you are using, what you are emitting, and how you can reduce it". He has previously described making such a personal audit as "something you can do quite simply".

But Downing Street admits that no attempt has been made to measure the carbon footprints of Mr Blair or his family. And it failed to answer questions that would have provided the information to enable them to be calculated.

The IoS commissioned a leading business carbon-footprinting consultancy - the Oxford-based Best Foot Forward - to calculate them, using what information is publicly available.

The firm, a winner of the Queen's Award for Enterprise, estimated that the Blairs have a footprint of at least 8,127 tons of carbon dioxide a year. By contrast, says the firm, the average Briton emits about 11 tons.

The vast majority of the emissions, according to Best Foot Forward's detailed report, arise from Mr Blair's practice of chartering planes to take him and his entourage on official trips overseas. It examined Cabinet Office records for the financial year ending last March - the latest publicly available - and found that only one of his 59 flights was by a scheduled service.

The firm calculated that emissions from the chartered flights amounted to the equivalent of "a staggering 7,991 tonnes of carbon dioxide". Craig Simmons, its technical director, says: "This is the level of emissions you would expect from a medium-sized business employing some 2,000 people."

The firm says that if Mr Blair he had travelled on scheduled flights, his emissions would have dropped to 38 tons. It adds that the Prime Minister could have reduced his emissions even further, to 37 tons, by using Eurostar instead of a plane to and from Brussels and Paris during the year.

Best Foot Forward also tried to estimate the carbon footprints of the Blair family holidays, of Cherie Blair's own flights and of the Blairs' residences in Downing St, Chequers and in the Prime Minister's Sedgefield constituency.

It says that last year's family holidays will have caused emissions totalling 40 tons of carbon dioxide. And it estimates, from the information available, that Mrs Blair's personal and official flights (excluding holidays and those taken with her husband on the chartered aircraft) emitted more than 27 tons. By contrast, it says, an average Briton's carbon footprint from flights is about a one ton a year.

It makes the "conservative estimate" that emissions from the two homes the Blairs inhabit - the flat above 11 Downing St, and their house in Trimdon, County Durham - amount to a further 11 tons of carbon dioxide. And it suggests Chequers adds 58 tonnes.

It says that all these figures will be underestimates as "there are many other potential carbon emissions which we have not been able to quantify - travel by road and rail, hotel accommodation, food and drink, and the indirect emissions which result from the production and consumption of those goods and services which form part of most people's everyday lives".

Downing Street says the carbon dioxide emitted from the Prime Minister's official travel since 2005 has been "offset" by paying for projects that cutemissions, usually in developing countries. But it could not say whether these had offset the full 7,991 tons identified in the report. A government estimate of emissions from the same flights - which apparently does not take into account the same level of damage from a chartered plane - puts them at 500 tonnes.

Last week - after criticism of his refusal to curb foreign family holidays from Jonathon Porritt, his own green adviser - Mr Blair promised to offset emissions from holidays, starting with the recent one in Florida. But Downing Street would not comment on whether Mrs Blair's travel was also offset.

It did, however, provide a list of energy- and pollution-saving improvements that have been made to No 10. All electricity now comes from renewable sources, energy-saving lights are used "wherever possible", there is a "campaign" to turn off lights and PCs, and its car fleet "includes hybrid fuel cars". It said that both Downing Street and Chequers are covered by a pledge to make the whole government office estate carbon neutral by 2012.

The Government's new "Guide to Greener Living" says: "Fly less, stay longer. If travelling by plane, you could consider options for reducing flights, for example taking fewer, longer breaks if possible instead of several short ones. If you want to do better still, maybe you can find what you want closer to home, by taking a holiday in the UK or travelling to nearby countries by rail or sea."

Opposition spokesmen pointed out that the Prime Minister's conduct flagrantly contravenes the guide. Chris Huhne, for the Liberal Democrats said: "Tony Blair can't be taken seriously. He lectures the world on cutting carbon emissions but is profligate in his personal behaviour."

Peter Ainsworth, for the Conservatives, said: "The Government's flying in all different directions over the environment."

Mr Blair's record contrasts with a pledge by Prince Charles last month to estimate and publish his carbon footprint annually, and to mount a campaign to reduce it. And it will cast a shadow over an important initiative the Prime Minister is due to launch with major companies in March to help people make climate-friendly choices in shopping and their personal lives.

The initiative will give new prominence to the debate over how far combating climate change is down to personal changes in practice and lifestyle, and how much to government action. Environmentalists and ministers have long struggled with the paradox that people want to know what they can do, but are discouraged because any personal action has only a minuscule impact on the problem.

Yet decisions taken by individuals over their use of transport and of energy used in the home account for 44 per cent of Britain's carbon dioxide emissions. Though each action has a tiny effect, there is no hope of tackling climate change unless many millions of them are taken.

The Environment Secretary, David Miliband, favours giving each Briton an annual carbon allowance - which can be traded, so that those who want to pollute more can buy permits to do so from greener citizens - and the idea is getting a good hearing in No 10.

Yesterday, a Downing Street source said that, following the IoS investigation, it would need to work out Mr Blair's carbon footprint officially.

BUSINESS FLIGHTS

Carbon cost

Tony - Fifty-nine chartered planes in 2006, including a weekend in San Francisco for talks on how to tackle global warming with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and chums. His Christmas tour of the Middle East involved 10 flights in 7 days. Altogether his official flights generated 7,991 tonnes of greenhouse gases.

Cherie - Nine trips on scheduled flights: 27 tonnes.

The alternatives

A telephone call or an email. Or, if the matter requires a personal touch and is not that pressing, perhaps a letter. For those short-haul European flights, may we suggest the Channel Tunnel. It is fast and considerably greener. Who knows, you might pick up some tips on how to run a railway once you get to the other side.

The payback

We're not talking a few shrubs in Tanzania for that little lot - something altogether more ambitious is required to restore karma. I mean if Bill Clinton can pardon criminals in his last days of office why can't you afforest the M25?

HOLIDAYS

Carbon cost

In June after relaxing at an estate in the Tuscan hills, the PM called in for a meeting with the new Italian PM Romano Prodi before an audience with the Pope in Rome. From there the family flew home with Ryanair, which left 25 minutes late. Two months later Blair took his third holiday to Sir Cliff Richard's £3m luxury villa in Barbados. Last month he topped off his tan on Miami Beach. The holiday got off to a bumpy start when the British Airways flight he and his family took to Miami Airport (first class of course) overran the runway. Total emissions: 40 tonnes

The alternatives

From July Tony, every day will be a holiday. Might we suggest you log on to visitbritain.co.uk.

The payback

Since it is "impractical" to expect you to give up travelling by plane you can at least commit to travel only by Ryanair. It won't help the environment but at least we'll know you are as miserable as the rest of us.

TRANSPORT

Carbon cost

Armour-plated Jaguar XJR and a Daimler of similar spec. A Chrysler Voyager people carrier and a Range Rover full of heavily armed men.

The alternatives

Given the regrettable need for the continuing presence of the Diplomatic Protection Corps, might we suggest a cycle rickshaw? To confuse any would-be assailants it would be necessary for you to be the one pedalling. Failing that, at least invest in a greener, hybrid car. An electric motor would engage as the entourage speeds away from the paparazzi and then recharge when they skid to a halt outside No 10.

The payback

It's been some time since you've used Shanks's pony. The wind on your face, the easy swinging gait, it will all come back before you can say "Where's my driver?"

HOMES

Carbon cost

With its lofty ceilings and vast windows Chequers is an insulation nightmare. However, the huge roof offers plenty of space for solar panels and nearby farmers should be able to provide plenty of sheep's wool - the latest in green roof-insulation technology. Total current emissions: 58 tonnes.

The PM's other two homes, Downing Street and "Myrobella", his constituency home, together are responsible for around 11 tonnes of greenhouse gas emission a year.

The alternatives

Ah, it seems you have beaten us to that one.

The payback

Why don't you ask David Cameron for a few tips on how to green your home.

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