The G7 Summit is taking place this week in the UK from June 11-13. Leaders of the seven member states will meet to discuss issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic and the prevention of future pandemics to international coordination on economic policies, such as a proposed global minimum corporation tax of 15 percent.
A big topic for the talks is of course climate change. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has drawn a lot of criticism for flying from London to Cornwall in southwest England, where the summit is being held, in a private jet to urge world leaders to take more action to tackle the climate crisis. For context, Cornwall is 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of London, approximately a 5-hour train journey.
He made it quite easy for people to point out the hypocrisy, after tweeting a photo-op of himself arriving on the private jet, while simultaneously drawing attention to the fact that he'll be asking his fellow leaders "to rise to the challenge of beating the pandemic and building back better, fairer and greener."
The Prime Minister has hit back at criticisms, telling reporters: “If you attack my arrival by plane, I respectfully point out that the UK is actually in the lead in developing sustainable aviation fuel and one of the points in the Ten-point plan for our green industrial revolution is to get to jet zero as well as net zero.”
The Ten Point Plan includes a £15 million competition to create sustainable jet fuel, none of which have been incorporated into the jet that took Johnson to Cornwall. Compared to travel via public transport, the emissions of such short journeys are astonishing.
"A flight from London to Cornwall creates roughly 1 tonne of CO2 emissions, more than is produced by the average household in a year," journalist Bethany Dawson wrote on Twitter. "50 trees would need to be planted to offset these emissions."
According to the UK government's Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy's own figures, a 400-kilometer trip would produce 97.5 kilograms of greenhouse gases per passenger, Business Insider reports. The equivalent version by train would produce 17.8kg of greenhouse gases per passenger, as well as being far better optics at a climate crisis summit.
In 2019, climate activist Greta Thunberg traveled to a UN climate summit via boat, crossing the Atlantic Ocean from her home country Sweden to the US and Chile where the summits were held to avoid traveling by airplane. During this two-week trip, right-wing commentators in the UK accused her of being a hypocrite for having a plastic bottle of water behind her in a photo. So far, their criticisms have not been so scathing of Johnson's mode of travel, despite being given ample opportunity.
Just last month, Johnson took a helicopter to Birmingham (UK) to promote a local bike hire scheme.