Use of seats dictated by ‘demands of the itinerary’
Green Party ministers have been traveling on business class flights for international state visits despite the higher carbon footprint of premium airline seats.
Party leader Eamon Ryan and his deputy Catherine Martin have both booked business class flights despite research showing those seats are responsible for at least three times more carbon emissions than economy seats.
Deputy leader Ms Martin has taken four business class flights to destinations such as the United Arab Emirates, Argentina and America within the last year.
The revelation comes as the Green Party prepares to impose strict new carbon targets on a range of industries including the transport sector, agriculture and businesses in general.
Details of the two ministers’ luxury flights follows Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe insisting cheap “€10 flights across Europe” should be banned as part of the solution to addressing the climate crisis.
Ms Martin, the tourism minister, and Mr Ryan, the transport minister, are also centrally involved in the worst crisis to hit the tourism sector in decades with Dublin Airport struggling with serious delays, cancelled flights and lost baggage.
While tourists are facing the rising costs of hotels, restaurants and car rentals.
However, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show Ms Martin spent €8,194 flying to and from the US in September 2021 for a trade mission.
Ms Martin’s departmental officials and press adviser flew in economy which cost between €1,666 and €2,036 per seat.
A few months later in February of this year, the minister, her officials and her political adviser all flew in business class to attend the controversial Dubai Expo in the United Arab Emirates.
All four flights cost more than €5,200 each.
The next month, as part of the Government’s St Patrick’s Day state trade missions, Ms Martin and two of her staff booked business class flights costing €6,245 to Buenos Aires in Argentina.
In May, the minister and three members of her team returned to the US and again flew business class with flights ranging from €4,431 to €6,851. On shorter flights to London and Venice, Ms Martin has flown economy class.
Asked if he also flies business class, Mr Ryan’s spokesperson said he did on “one occasion” and did so “in accordance with civil service guidelines”.
A recent study by the International Council on Clean Transport found premium seats can emit 2.6 to 4.3 times more CO2 per kilometre than a passenger in economy class, depending on the aircraft class.
The same research revealed premium seats (business and first class) are responsible for almost a fifth (19pc) of all emissions from the aviation industry.
Separately, a World Bank study found business class flights are responsible for three times more carbon dioxide emissions than economy seats.
The ministerial travel details come at a time when the Green Party is seeking to introduce statutory carbon targets requiring the transport sector to reduce emissions by 42pc to 50pc.
This does not include the aviation industry which faces new EU-imposed rules on carbon emissions.
The Government has delayed signing off on the legally required carbon targets due to an on-going row over the impact they will have on the agriculture sector which will be required to reduce emissions by 22pc to 30pc under the Green Party’s plans.
Ms Martin’s spokesperson defended her use of business flights saying it is “dictated by the demands of the itinerary and is done in line with the department’s policy on travel.
“Premium economy/business class may be used for long-haul flights where the additional flexibility afforded is considered necessary for the effective discharge of official business or where scheduled flying time exceeds five hours’ duration.
“The minister has travelled in business class where those conditions are met and, typically, where she has had to attend meetings and briefings directly after arrival. The minister does fly in economy class where feasible in the context of trip itineraries and the duration of travel,” he added.
The spokesperson said the department makes an annual payment to the Climate Action Fund scheme to offset emissions for travel on commercial flights by the minister and all officials.