It would appear to be a classic case of, “Do as I say, not as I do”. The Scottish Climate Change Division has met with strong disapproval after figures were released showing that members of the ‘Green Squad’ have not been taking their own advice.
The Scottish government came up with a strategy and a timeframe for reducing carbon emissions that went into effect in 2009. That Climate Change Act, passed unanimously by Parliament, called for a reduction in carbon emissions of 42% by the year 2020, and it is one of the most ambitious targets set by any country in the world. There is also a Travel Plan that calls for a 20% reduction in travel by government officials.
The figures documented by the government showed an increase in short-haul flights taken by members of the Climate Change group over the past year, with the majority being flights between Edinburgh and London. The overall cost of travel rose from about £9500 in 2007-8 to about £16,000 in 2009-10, whilst the amount spent on rail travel showed a drop. The planned 20% reduction in travel turned out to be only 3%.
Patrick Harvie, Green Party MSP, said he was “appalled” by the inference that Scottish ministers are unaware that air travel is more expensive and creates more pollution than overland travel. He noted that some Climate Change officials flew to the Copenhagen summit on climate change; Harvie got there via land transport. In another criticism of government behaviour, Mr. Harvie noted that ministerial papers are being delivered by limo at an expense of around £16,500 since the SNP came to power.
In rebuttal, government spokesmen said that most travel by Climate Change staff is by train or bus, and though the number of staff members has increased, the overall cost of travel during 2010 was less than in 2009, and the limo bill used to be six times larger.