The Government could save more than £100 million over the next three years if it reduced the number of unnecessary flights it takes..
A new WWF-UK report, Excess Baggage: The case for reducing government flying reveals the extent of government flying over the past three years finding that 90 per cent of all flights were taken within the UK.
The most frequent domestic routes used by Ministers and officials were between London and Edinburgh and London and Belfast whilst the top non-UK short haul routes were to Brussels, Geneva, Luxembourg and Strasbourg- all of which are reachable or replaceable by train, ferry, or videoconferencing.
The report found that if government departments followed their own best practice, they could cut 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.
WWF, the conservation organisation is calling on the coalition to end the spending of thousands of pounds on unnecessary flights to help it reach its commitment of reducing central government carbon emissions by 10 percent over the next 12 months.
Of the 22 government departments contacted by WWF, less than half have reduced the number of flights taken between 2007 to the end of 2009. According to the report, the best performing departments are the Department for Education and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Department of Energy and Climate Change spent £715,115 on 1,378 flights last year, with 676 of those taken domestically.
The worst performers include HM Revenues & Customs and The Department of Health. Flying in both departments increased over the three year period.
David Norman, WWF-UK's Director of Campaigns, said: “Businesses have done everything in their power to cut out wasteful spending on unnecessary flights during the recession. Yet WWF’s report shows that very few government departments have made similar efforts to reduce their flying, throwing away potential savings of well over £100million of taxpayers’ money.
“It’s shocking that nine out of ten flights by government officials are to destinations within the UK. There's a huge opportunity here to cut costs and carbon emissions – as shown by the star performers Defra and the Department for Education, which have reduced flight costs by 39% over three years. It’s time for the rest of government to catch up, and they should start by cutting out at least one flight in every ten over the coming year.”
The new government needs to quickly improve efforts to reduce unnecessary flying. Not all departments were able to provide data in response to WWF’s FOI requests indicating that there is an urgent need for government departments to improve the way they record flight data and introduce clear travel policy standards as well as setting flight reductions.
WWF believe these flight reduction targets could be included in the new Sustainable Development in Government (SDiG) framework which is replacing Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate (SOGE) targets when they expire in the next year.
WWF wants to see government departments sign up to cutting one in five flights within five years, replacing these flights with lower carbon alternatives such as rail or videoconferencing. We therefore welcome news that the Scottish Government will be joining WWF’s One in Five Challenge, which will help them reduce their flights by 20 per cent by 2015.