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Johnson defends decision to fly between short campaign stops

Image credit: REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended his use of an aeroplane for short-haul journeys between election campaign stops and called for innovation in low-carbon flight.

Johnson has been travelling between campaign stops across the UK via short-haul flight. According to reports, Johnson started the campaign on a plane - nicknamed ‘Con Air’ - which allowed him to travel to North-East England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the East Midlands in a single day.

Recently, he has been seen travelling on an aeroplane with at least 70 seats (not filled to capacity) between Doncaster and Washington, near Sunderland. The 30-minute flight typically takes two hours travelling by road or 53 minutes by train. He then flew to Teesside, took another flight to Birmingham, before travelling to a warehouse near Gloucester by road.

When asked by reporters about his use of short-haul flights – one of the most environmentally damaging forms of transport – to travel between UK campaign stops, he said that he accepted the criticism and added: “The best way I can respond is by saying we’re offsetting the carbon contribution of this flight.”

“One day, when we get Brexit done and we drive the technological revolution this country is capable of, we will have not quite Prius aeroplanes but planes that produce much less CO2 and that’s the world we should work for.”

In line with the Tory manifesto, Johnson said that he would not restrict travel by air: “I don’t think we should ban aviation. People need to get around and they can offset it and also work for a world, which is what we’re going for, where we’ve improved engine efficiency so much that flying by plane is no longer as damaging to the atmosphere as it is at the moment.

“It’s vorsprung durch technik [leap ahead through technology], it’s about technological progress, believing in the abilities of this country to solve our problems, as we can. We’re going through an incredible revolution in battery technology. We will have planes that produce much less carbon.”

Johnson cited other measures to reduce carbon emissions, such as insulating homes. All major parties have pledged to invest in insulation for homes and other buildings to improve energy efficiency. The Conservative Party has said that it will not invest public money in Heathrow’s third runway, while the Labour Party has stated that any airport expansion must first pass climate and environment tests, as well as demonstrate that it can benefit the country.

The Liberal Democrats are opposing expansion of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, pledging instead to introduce zero-carbon fuels and blending the requirement for domestic flights while also reforming tax on flights to focus on frequent flyers.

While encouraging progress has been made towards electrifying aviation, with EasyJet aiming to introduce electric planes into regular service by 2027 and Norway aiming to electrify all short-haul flights by 2040, commercially-viable electric planes for long-haul flights remain a thing of fantasy.

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