New figures released today show that in the past five years, the government has slashed its carbon dioxide emissions by reducing yearly flights from 11,169 to 8,036 and cutting the distances flown by nearly two million kilometres.
This resulted in a reduction in emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases of 650 tonnes.
Cutting back on flights also brought about a drop in the annual spend on airline tickets from £1.85 million to £1.27m, a saving of 31 per cent. The total distance flown dropped by 23 per cent, from nearly eight million kilometres to six million kilometres.
Climate campaigners praised the efforts made by Scottish ministers and their staff, who made the cuts as part of an awards scheme run by environmental group WWF.
Scotland’s government is the first administration in the UK to successfully fulfil the “One in Five Challenge”, which requires members to cut business flights by 20 per cent within five years.
“Scottish ministers and their staff are to be congratulated for cutting their flights and carbon emissions by over a fifth,” said Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland.
“By successfully completing WWF’s One in Five Challenge, the Scottish Government has clearly demonstrated that many business flights are unnecessary and can easily be replaced with lower-carbon alternatives such as rail travel or video conferencing.
“Flying is the most polluting form of transport, as well as being a costly waste of time for our public servants. Using video-conferencing or taking the train turns wasted time into useful time and could save millions of pounds in these times of tight public finances.”
Environment and climate change minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “The Scottish Government has worked hard to reduce flights for business travel, achieving a 28 per cent cut since 2007. This is an important part of our overall environmental strategy to reduce our carbon footprint, and we have met the target by increasing the use of video and web-conferencing facilities for meetings and encouraging greater use of more sustainable travel options.”
A 2010 report for WWF estimated that the UK government and devolved administrations could save more than £100m and 59,000 tonnes of CO2 if they eliminated unnecessary journeys by air. Entitled Excess Baggage, the study showed 90 per cent of flights taken by government ministers and officials over the previous three years were within the UK.
The most common domestic routes were London to Edinburgh and London to Belfast, while the top short-haul overseas trips were to Brussels, Geneva, Luxembourg and Strasbourg.
Scotland’s climate targets are some of the most ambitious in the world, aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by the end of the decade.