Critics said the flight was “completely unnecessary” and cast doubt on the sincerity of the prime minister’s pledges to fight the climate crisis. Air travel produces far more global-heating emissions than other modes of transport.
Johnson took the 50-minute helicopter ride in a Sikorsky S-76C on 5 May, departing from north-west London and landing at Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green airport.
Leo Murray, a co-director at the climate charity Possible, said:
“The prime minister’s decision to travel by helicopter and private jet for election campaigns on trips that could easily have been made by train is very troubling. He either does not understand the implications of the climate targets he has signed Britain up to, or he is not serious about doing what needs to be done to meet them.”
“Imagine the positive message travelling by train would have sent to the British public about public transport use post-Covid,” Murray said. “It really casts doubt on the sincerity of the recent, very welcome messages from the government about the climate crisis.”
The helicopter Johnson flew in is registered to the digger manufacturer JCB, whose chairman is the billionaire Tory peer and frequent donor to the Conservative party Lord Bamford. It has also been reported that Johnson appeared to use a private jet registered to JCB for flights to Wales and Northumberland during the recent local election campaign.
The prime minister also used a helicopter to travel to Wolverhampton on 19 April, landing at a local golf club.
Johnson has been frequently sceptical about the climate crisis before becoming prime minister.
For example, in a newspaper column in December 2015, he promoted the views of the climate crisis sceptic Piers Corbyn:
“Piers thinks that whatever the role of humanity in affecting the temperature of the planet, that role is pitifully trivial next to the sun … There may be all kinds of reasons why I was sweating at ping-pong – but they don’t include global warming.”
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has long been clear that 100% of global heating over the past 60 years is caused by humans.
Johnson has been criticised before for flying short distances. In December 2019, while campaigning for the general election, he took a private jet from Doncaster to Darlington, which are less than one hour apart by train.