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Time to reduce government flying

June 22, 2010

The WWF recently released a report on the costs of government flying in the UK. The WWF calculated that if the UK government reduced the excessive number of unnecessary flights it takes, it could save more than £100 million of public money over the next three years – as well as reducing its carbon emissions by at least 60,000 tonnes.

Here is the news piece featured on the WWF website.

The most common domestic routes were London-Edinburgh and London-Belfast, while the top non-UK short-hauls were to Brussels, Geneva, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. All reachable by lower-carbon train and ferry, or entirely replaceable by video-conferencing.

Our report found that if government departments followed their own best practice, they could cut at least 600,000 flights, reduce CO2 emissions by more than 59,000 tonnes and save well over £100 million of taxpayers’ money over the next three years.

More immediately, it would help them meet the government’s commitment to reduce its own carbon emissions by 10% in the next year.

Government department flying records
Of the 22 government departments we contacted for our report, less than half had reduced the number of flights taken from 2007 to 2009.

The two best performing departments are Defra (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Education, which together have reduced flight costs by 39% over the last three years.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change spent £715,115 on 1,378 flights last year – 676 of which were domestic.

The worst performers include the Department of Health and HM Revenue & Customs, both of which increased their flying during this period.

Some departments were unable to provide any data at all in response to our ‘Freedom of Information’ requests. Less than half were able to give us all the data we asked for. This suggests there’s an urgent need for government departments to improve the way they record flight data, as well as introducing clear travel standards.

Our director of campaigns, David Norman, says: “Businesses have done everything in their power to cut out wasteful spending on unnecessary flights during the recession. Yet our report shows that very few government departments have made similar efforts. They should start by cutting out at least one flight in every ten over the coming year.”

We’re delighted that the Scottish government has already agreed to join WWF’s One in Five Challenge, which will help them reduce their flights by 20% (cutting one in five flights) by 2015. We’d like to see the UK government do the same.

Find the full report here.
Maybe just the Executive Summary?

Perhaps then the question is, should Singapore produce a similar report that details the flights of all government officials and staff? That might help us to better outline amount that flights dip into public funds and make it easier to calculate carbon emissions from the Singaporean government, which can eventually lead to better offsetting measures too! Anyone keen on following up on this?


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