Matt Hancock slammed for saying Brits shouldn’t cut down on short flights to tackle climate crisis

Posted On: 
15th January 2020

Matt Hancock has been criticised for saying Brits should not cut down on short flights to help tackle the climate crisis.

Matt Hancock said people should not have to take fewer flights
PA Images

And the Health Secretary rejected the idea of making “sacrifices” to help save the planet, saying “we should use technology to reduce carbon emissions”.

Greenpeace said his comments “fly in the face of the Conservative manifesto commitment to tackling the climate emergency”.

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Mr Hancock was speaking after the Government was criticised for helping keep beleaguered airline FlyBe in operation.

Asked if people should reduce the number of flights they take, the Cabinet minister told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Nope.

"I think connectivity around the country is incredibly important.”

He added: “Take the flights to the Scilly Isles for instance, it’s very hard and takes a long time to get to the Scilly Isles if you’re not in an aeroplane.”

The secretary of state also fended off accusations he set a bad example on tackling climate change by chartering a private flight to get back to London from a meeting in Aberdeen in 2015.

Asked if he'd do it again he replied: “Yes of course, if that’s necessary."

Explaining what "necessary" meant he said: “Well if I needed to get to Aberdeen and I didn’t have time to get the train.”

But Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: "Either Matt Hancock thinks airplanes run on fairy dust, or he does know they're a major source of planet-heating emissions but simply doesn't care.

"Whichever it is, his comments fly in the face of the Conservative manifesto commitment to tackling the climate emergency.

"He's right about one thing, though; Regional connectivity is crucial, and that's why ministers should invest a lot more in clean transport infrastructure while making sure millions of people are not clobbered by rail fare hikes every year." 

He was defended by Tory MP Alex Chalk, who said the UK is “decarbonising further and faster than any other G7 country”.

He told the BBC: “If you look at this issue of airline pollution - which is of course important, by the way - a relatively small, if not vanishingly small, proportion of aviation emissions comes from local, domestic airlines.

“The overwhelming proportion is international [flights].We are absolutely committed to Net Zero.”

Mr Chalk said to hit net zero by 2050 “you’ve got to take the country with you”, adding: “Because as soon as you say to people, right, that’s it, we’re cancelling flying, then I can tell you that the whole climate debate would lose and the climate would suffer as a result.”

After last month’s election Boris Johnson claimed he would make Britain "the cleanest, greenest on Earth" following a Tory manifesto pledge for the UK to reach net zero climate emissions by 2050.

But the Prime Minister also faced criticism for taking a 90-mile flight between Doncaster Sheffield Airport and Teesside Airport while on the campaign trail.

And he boycotted a Channel 4 debate on climate change, where he was replaced by a melting ice sculpture.