E-mail to Ed Miliband regarding his comments about aviation

Ed Miliband’s comments about aviation which I read in the Guardian in July were sufficiently ridiculous that I wrote him an e-mail detailing my concerns. The correspondence which ensued is documented below.


After nearly two months, I am frankly appalled at the quality of the below response. In fact, I’d almost recommend you don’t read it, it contains so little information.

My response follows. That is more worth reading, even if I say so myself.

My response


The conversation continues via Twitter:

@EdMilibandMP I am appalled by the guff your department has sent me in response to my e-mail to you two months ago.

Wednesday 2nd September 2009 22:33 BST

@EdMilibandMP Er, because it doesn’t answer either of my questions..? Did you read my response?!

Thursday 3rd September 2009 08:47 BST

@EdMilibandMP I have references for my numbers here. What’s wrong with them? > 140 character response appreciated!

Thursday 3rd September 2009 12:06 BST

My > 140 character response

Thanks for responding. Here are the references for my figures. Please let me know if you see any problems. Twitter is too short a medium for constructive debate with references, so feel free to leave a comment or get in touch by e-mail. Cheers!

  • The Committee on Climate Change page about aviation does not seem to make reference to UK emissions as a fraction of our total CO2 output. I do not understand why not. It claims that aviation represents 2% of global emissions, of which the UK contributes some 8% (we have 1% of World population).

    In fact, as well as being global, this figure is out of date (it’s from 1990) and does not take into account the factor of 2.7 extra ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’ radiative forcing created by the chemistry of other aircraft emissions such as water and nitrous oxides, as recommended by the IPCC.

    In fact, you can see from the Parliamentary Hansard of 2007 that aviation contributed some 6.3% of UK CO2 emissions in 2005, which rises to 15% when multiplied by 2.7, assuming that the rest of the economy has a radiative forcing index of 1, as the IPPC do. For some unstated reason, the Hansard radiative forcing figure is a factor of 2, leading them to conclude 13%. Indeed, there is some uncertainty in the figure, so I think that aviation contributes 10–15% of current UK emissions is a fair estimate.

    If we are to cut our emissions by 80% by 2050, this leaves us with 20% of emissions to play with. 10–15% out of 20% is 50–75%. This assumes aviation emissions do not grow from 2005 levels.

  • Aviation is responsible for 0.78% of UK business turnover, according to the Office for National Statistics.

What is wrong with my figures?

‘Richer people fly more but so do millions of others’ is disingenuous. Expanding aviation overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy. The ECI report states that ‘the indication is that the majority of the growth in aviation has occurred because richer people are flying more often.’ Growing aviation is therefore not the socially inclusive course of action you claim when you say that you ‘don't want to have a situation where only rich people can afford to fly.’

Finally, do you have answers to my subsequent two questions regarding the e-mail response I received yesterday?

More via Twitter

@EdMilibandMP Certainly am. :) Thanks, looking forward to it.

Thursday 3rd September 2009 19:06 BST

Where it comes to millions of lives in the developing world and the state of the entire UK economy…I suppose I am a bit tricky to please, yes.

Another response—October

I received a response from DECC in October whilst on holiday, and have only just had chance to get back to them. Their response appears to be mainly cherry-picking and obfuscation and, whilst it does engage with my queries to a slightly greater degree than previous correspondence, they still have not addressed my direct questions, which I was forced to restate again at the end of my reply. Both e-mails are copied below.

My reply—December

The brush-off

I have to admit I’m dumbfounded by this comeback from DECC. Basically, they are refusing point-blank to engage any further on this issue, in spite of having failed repeatedly to address my questions, re-stated in each e-mail I sent. Their only attempt to address one of my queries was with statistics which they have failed to provide a source for.

Careful thought about the future of aviation is crucial to fighting climate change without crippling our economy. The fact that Ed Miliband and his department refuse to answer my questions on the subject is not just insulting, and doesn’t just make a mockery of representation and raise questions about the point of their ‘customer contact unit’, but exposes a deeply worrying gap in UK government policy.


  1. This looks very much like a form letter doesn’t it? Not such a bad thing I suppose – I guess the civil service have to have some procedure in place the kick what they see as crank correspondents into the long grass, but they do seem to have applied this policy with unseemly haste in your case don’t you think? I wonder how many other correspondents are filed under ‘too difficult’ and get summarily despatched in this way?

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