Edinburgh Council under fire for jetting to conference despite climate emergency and zero carbon pledge

A five-strong delegation from Edinburgh City Council will fly to the MIPIM 2020 conference - despite calls from opponents to take the train in order to be more environmentally friendly.

Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 6:00 am
Cllr Cammy Day and Cllr Neil Gardiner will travel by plane to Cannes for the MIPIM 2020 conference

A delegation of councillors and officials that will jet off to France in March has come under fire for not taking the train – despite Edinburgh City Council declaring a climate emergency.

Depute leader of the council, Cllr Cammy Day, along with planning convener, Cllr Neil Gardiner, the authority’s director place, Paul Lawrence and two other officials will attend the MIPIM 2020 conference in Cannes – with a £10,000 budget attached.

The annual event is a major real estate and investment conference and the council has previously used it to “profile the city’s investment opportunities” find “sources and flows of investment” and to “nurture and increase investor relationships”.

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Action plans drawn up for Edinburgh to become carbon neutral by 2030

A report to the authority’s policy and sustainability committee said that the delegation would undergo two separate flights to get to the event with the carbon cost of this proposal at 490.2kg per person – with a journey time of around five hours.

Although the train would have significantly impact less in terms of carbon, officials concluded that “while there are adverse impacts on air quality and noise associated with air travel, overland travel is not considered practical given the distance and excessive travel time.”

The council’s commercial development and inward investment manager, David Cooper, told councillors that “the evaluation has been carried out including carbon costs but also the length of time of travel and comfort for those travelling”.

But opposition councillors blasted the authority for not practising what it preaches after it declared a climate emergency last year and committing to the Capital becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Gillian Gloyer said: “I am concerned that there seems to be a default position of flying to places that are relatively quite close. I’m particularly baffled by an overall travel time of approximately 21 hours – I have the timetable from St Pancras to Nice in front of me and it’s 10 hours.

“I completely understand about comfort but it strikes me that it’s actually more comfortable to sit on a nice, fast train where you can work and have meetings and make phone calls.”

Green Cllr Melanie Main called on Cllr Day to “lead by example” and take the train.

She added: “There’s a great deal of criticism from young people and the public that we do a lot of talking about climate change and we don’t do a great deal of acting.

“Travelling is something that is going to change because of climate. It may take longer to get somewhere but we will still get to the same place. It is perfectly possible to work on a train.”

Conservative Cllr Jim Campbell suggested that the delegation should instead take a Ryanair flight from Edinburgh to Marseilles, which he said would create less carbon emissions.

He added: “I’m sure the delegation would be happy to sit a little bit closer together if that were to save a bit of carbon.”

But councillors voted in favour of the £10,000 trip being taken by four separate flights.

Cllr Day said: “All the work in our recent city mobility plan shows our overall commitment to carbon zero. Making the commitment 2030 shows this administration is leading in Scotland, if not the UK and Europe, with our targets.

“This is just the most efficient way for us to travel on this occasion.”

But Cllr Gardiner said he will investigate whether he could take the train to Cannes.

He added: “When we are asking residents to make sacrifices because of climate change, I think we need to make every effort to do that ourselves.”