Recent British Prime Ministers have flown less frequently than Rishi Sunak.

Unlike the three previous British prime ministers, Rishi Sunak has made more domestic trips using RAF planes and helicopters.

According to the Ministry of Defense, during his first seven months in office, he took about one such trip every week.

Since the prime minister has promised to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, critics have called his frequent use of private jets for short domestic trips hypocritical.

But Mr Sunak claims that flying was the “most efficient use of my time.”

The received data on domestic flights made by Command Support Air Transport planes between July 2016 and April 2023, split down per prime minister, in answer to a Freedom of Information request.

The 32nd Squadron of the Royal Air Force uses two Dassault Falcon 900LX planes and a helicopter for domestic transport of the Prime Minister and other ministers.

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In a span of 187 days, Mr Sunak boarded 23 domestic trips on these planes, or about once every eight days.

The brief tenure of Ms Truss in Downing Street and Mr Johnson’s travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 epidemic are two important qualifications to keep in mind.

The first sought information about the frequency with which successive British prime ministers beginning with Tony Blair, had travelled inside the country using military aircraft. The Ministry of Defense urged against it because of the expense, but Mrs May had already asked for information on the planes in question.

When travelling abroad, the prime minister may use one of the RAF’s Voyager planes, and the government also often charters private flights aboard Titan Airways’ planes.

To attend Conservative Party events, Mr Sunak has collected more than £70,000 in private aircraft and helicopter travel from political contributors this year.

Powerful politics

Mr Sunak’s use of RAF aircraft for relatively short excursions to Newquay, Dover, and Leeds this year has come under heavy scrutiny. Critics have asked why he did not take the train instead.

Last month, Mr Sunak stated, “totally and absolutely incorrect” those who suggest “no one should ride an aircraft” as a response to climate change.

Using taxpayer-funded private aircraft for personal travel is “expensive,” as Labour put it.

Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, said that Mr Sunak had broken the ministerial code by using a charter trip instead of a scheduled flight unless “it is necessary to go by air.”

a lucid line at 1px

Mr Sunak said that keeping the UK’s vow to decrease carbon emissions was “morally correct to honour” during last year’s COP27 climate meeting.

As part of the international effort to mitigate the worst consequences of climate change, the United Kingdom has established a legally enforceable objective of attaining net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

By burning fuel, planes release greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the considerable extra ample of these gases.

Domestic flights have the highest emissions per mile compared to any other mode of transportation, and private jets often have higher CO2 emissions than commercial flights.

However, carbon emissions vary greatly depending on the plane’s size, the efficiency of its engines, and the number of people on board.

8% of the United Kingdom’s GHG emissions in 2019 came from aviation, including domestic and international.

PM’s Top Priorities

Flight Free UK campaigner Anna Hughes called Mr Sunak’s mode of transportation choices “frustrating.” Hughes’s campaign encourages individuals to travel less for the benefit of the environment.

She said that leaders may convey the situation’s seriousness and reality by exhibiting “the type of behaviour that we all need to adopt to prevent the climate disaster.”

You can’t introduce yourself to me by saying, “I’m the prime minister; I’m too busy and important to waste time with your introduction,” she said.

Illustration illustrating the environmental impact of various forms of transportation

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The minister would “nine times out of ten” use the train, according to a former official familiar with ministerial travel previous to Mr Sunak’s leadership.

Having “access to the PM’s diary and every single minute of every day is accounted for,” the ex-official said (without revealing his or her identity).

They said that flying was the only option for a prolonged stay.

Occasionally ministers “need the use of non-commercial air travel,” according to a Downing Street spokesman.

A representative for the government said that “this is a common procedure for governments throughout the globe and has continuously been the case under successive UK administrations of all political colours.”

“All flights are carbon offset, and cost-effectiveness, safety, and timeliness are considered with every booking.”

The carbon footprint of the PM, please.

Up until April of this year, we only know how many domestic flights Mr Sunak has flown, but not the specifics of his trips or the kind of aircraft he flew.

The Ministry of Defense denied our request for this information, claiming that the “RAF does not preserve records on air miles travelled by aircraft.” This included no information about the PM’s travels.

That prevents us from determining Mr Sunak’s cumulative domestic flight carbon footprint during his first seven months in office.

Using data that is already in the public domain, we may make educated guesses about the carbon emissions of certain flights.

On January 19, for instance, the prime minister took a Dassault Falcon 900LX from RAF Northolt in west London to Blackpool Airport.

Sunak’s CO2 emissions during his flight from London to Blackpool, visually compared

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Several aviation sources report that the Falcon uses roughly 260 gallons of gasoline per hour. Fuel consumption was around 178 gallons (805 litres) for the 41-minute trip from London to Blackpool.

The trip would have resulted in around two tons of CO2 emissions, according to official fuel-to-emissions conversion ratios.

The standard capacity of a Falcon jet is 12. Two tons of CO2 would be equal to 166 kg for each passenger on the aircraft to Blackpool.

To provide some perspective, in 2021, the International Energy Agency calculated that the average person’s worldwide carbon footprint was roughly 4.7 tons of CO2.

An LNER carbon calculator found that a railway trip from London Euston to Blackpool North would generate 14.31kg of CO2 per passenger, far less than Mr Sunak’s aircraft.

The average time for the train ride from London Euston to Blackpool is three hours and 43 minutes, according to Trainline.

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