UK officials flying to COP15 ‘extraordinary’

The Liberal Democrats shadow energy and climate change secretary has attacked ministers and Government officials for flying to environmental talks in Copenhagen.

Simon Hughes, who has himself bought a train ticket from London via Brussels and Cologne to Copenhagen costing £398, says flying to the talks is ‘unacceptable’ and ‘extraordinary.’

In a Parliamentary debate Mr Hughes was told, that while the final delegation was not finalised, 19 delegates of the 38 strong UK team have so far confirmed they plan to fly to the talks.

Mr Hughes said apart from the environmental damage this would cost tax payers around £17,500 for the total cost of travel for all UK delegates – this amounts to around £420 per delegate – although low cost airlines do offer cheaper flights.

In a debate with climate change minister Joan Ruddock Mr Hughes asked: “How many ministers and officials from her department she expects to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and (travel to that conference by air; and what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of such travel.

Mrs Ruddock replied: “The UK delegation to the UNFCCC conference in Copenhagen has not yet been finalised, however, the current list identifies two ministers and 36 officials.

“At present 19 delegates have confirmed their intention to travel to the conference by air, this is necessary as the rail options are limited, and inflexible.

“As delegates will be working around the clock many individuals have fixed appointments that set fixed boundaries to their possible travel times.

“Not all delegates have made their travel arrangements as of yet. DECC has estimated up to £17,500 for the total cost of travel for all UK delegates attending the conference. The cumulative cost so far is well below this figure.”

After the debate Mr Hughes said: “It is extraordinary that at least half of the UK delegation from DECC are travelling to Copenhagen by air when the dates of this conference have been known for months and others have managed to chart a route by train.

“It is completely unacceptable for ministers and public servants to travel in a way that produces the most damaging emissions when alternatives are clearly available.

“This is just another example of the Labour Government saying one thing and doing another.”

Luke Walsh

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