Boris Johnson’s private jet flight to London emitted 50 times more carbon than train

The Prime Minister flew back from Cop26 for a dinner at London club

Helen Coffey
Thursday 04 November 2021 13:23
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Boris Johnson’s private jet flight from Glasgow to attend dinner at a London club is likely to have produced at least 980kg more carbon emissions per passenger than if he had taken the train.

The prime minister opted to take the highest-carbon form of transport when travelling from the pivotal COP26 climate conference on 3 November to dine at the Garrick Club, a men-only private members’ club in the capital.

Had Mr Johnson taken the train, the 400-mile journey from Scotland would have emitted just 20kg of CO2 (per passenger), according to the Campaign for Better Transport, an organisation that strives for all communities to have access to high quality, sustainable transportation.

However, he instead travelled by private charter plane.

Research by EU NGO Transport and Environment (T&E) found that private jets are 50 times more polluting than trains, putting Mr Johnson’s carbon footprint somewhere in the region of 1,000kg of CO2e.

A No 10 spokesman told the Mirror: “All travel decisions are made with consideration for security and time restraints. The prime minister travelled on one of the most carbon efficient planes of its size in the world.”

Glasgow-London flights take around an hour and a half, while the train journey takes from four hours and 28 minutes.

If limited time was the main issue, a scheduled commercial flight would have been quicker than the train but five to 14 times less polluting than a private jet – 10 times less polluting on average – according to the T&E research. Better Transport estimated that the average Glasgow-London commercial flight would result in 137kg of CO2e per passenger: roughly 863kg less than the same journey by private jet.

A government spokesperson told the Independent in defence of Mr Johnson’s private jet use: “We use a specific type of fuel which is a blend of 35 per cent sustainable aviation fuel and 65 per cent normal fuel – which is the maximum amount allowed – and, obviously, emissions will be offset.”

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is being held up by much of the aviation industry and many world leaders as the way forward for “greener” flights.

However, at the moment it must be mixed with kerosene – and SAFs do not reduce inflight emissions. Any carbon savings refer to the way the fuel is produced, rather than the CO2 pumped into the atmosphere when the aircraft is airborne, which remains the same or more than a regular flight.

Equally, most offsetting schemes do not actually remove carbon that’s already in the atmosphere and causing warming effects.

Climate campaigners and the Opposition have accused the PM of promoting double standards after he urged other countries to do everything possible to lower their emissions at COP26.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s chairwoman, said: “This is staggering hypocrisy from the prime minister. After warning world leaders it’s one minute to midnight to prevent a climate catastrophe, Boris Johnson clocked off from COP26, jumped in his private jet and flew down to London for dinner.

“It seems that when it comes to taking action to tackle the climate crisis, there’s one rule for the Conservatives and another rule for the rest of the world.”

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