‘This is what ‘climate leadership’ looks like’: Sunak and Cameron blasted for taking private jets to COP28

‘Members of a super-rich elite who are super-heating the planet.'

Rishi Sunak

As the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) got underway in Dubai on November 30, the Prime Minister is facing fresh outrage from climate campaigners over his choice of transport to the meeting – private jet.

Downing Street confirmed that as well as Sunak, the new foreign secretary, David Cameron, and the King, were all taking separate private jets to a conference aimed at tackling climate change and cutting global emissions.

Defending the decision, the PM’s official spokesperson claimed there was nothing wrong with the UK’s leading representatives travelling to the crucial climate summit this way, as the government is ‘not anti-flying.’

“We are not anti-flying. We do not seek to restrict the public from doing so and it’s important the UK has strong attendance at COP28, given we continue to be a world leader in tackling climate change,” said the spokesperson.

No 10. also insisted that the plane Rishi Sunak was using operates on 30 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and carbon offsetting will be used to minimise its impact on the environment.

The announcement was not received well among climate campaigners and opposition parties.

Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green Party, described Sunak and Cameron as members of a “super-rich elite who are super-heating the planet.”

 “A short trip on a private jet will produce more carbon than the average person emits all year,” she continued.

Caroline Lucas said the “excessive climate-wrecking private flights amount to pumping jet fumes in the face of those on the frontline of this crisis.” The Green MP is also in support of a new levy on private jets to “make them think twice before hopping on the next one.”

Wera Hobhouse, climate spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, also criticised the move, saying the use of separate private jets “is not just a waste of taxpayers’ cash, it sends all the wrong signals about the UK’s climate commitments.”

 “The UK should be playing a leading role at COP28 … instead, this government is slashing net zero targets at home while taking polluting private flights abroad,” Hobhouse added.

Todd Smith, a spokesperson at Extinction Rebellion (XR), said that the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary are “protecting the interests of their rich mates, and “setting an awful example.”

Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, voiced his disproval, stating: “It’s important for our leaders to show respect for the amount of carbon dioxide they emit. Is it really beyond the capability of them and their offices to ensure that they fly by chartered or even just coordinate their own efforts?”

Many took to X to share their disbelief.

“Sunak, Cameron and King Charles each take own private jets to travel to COP28. Tories spaffing taxpayer money is why the UK is in debt,” wrote one incensed X user.

“Sunak, Cameron and King Charles each take a private jet to travel to COP28 – proof (if it were really needed) that this government don’t give a flying frog about either the environment, or wasting British taxpayers’ money,” posted another.

This is not the first time Rishi Sunak has come under fire for using taxpayer-funded private jets and helicopters to travel to events.

In October, it emerged that the PM spent £43,000 of taxpayers’ money of VIP aircraft, including 20 domestic flights on RAF plans and helicopters in his first 11 months in office.

In January, Sunak defended his decision to visit a hospital in Leeds on a RAF jet, instead of travelling there by train.

And he tries to portray himself as the man of the people. 

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