A Telltale Carbon Footprint German Environment Minister Criticized over Solo Flight

Germany's environment minister Sigmar Gabriel is facing a barrage of criticism for allegedly wasting tax payers' money and polluting the atmosphere. He used a government plane to fly back from the Spanish island of Mallorca for a cabinet meeting in Berlin.

An air force Challenger: Not the most environmentally friendly way to travel.

An air force Challenger: Not the most environmentally friendly way to travel.

Germany's environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, just wanted a bit of sun and sand. But a vacation on the Spanish island of Mallorca has landed him in hot water after it was revealed he used a government jet to fly to an appointment in Berlin -- by himself.

According to a report in the Wednesday edition of the mass circulation taboild Bild, the flights last August cost taxpayers €50,000 ($77,000) and released 44 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

The centre-left Social Democratic Party politician used a government Challenger jet, which can carry 20 passengers, to fly from Mallorca to Berlin on Aug. 8 last year. After completing his business in Germany, he used the plane to return -- again alone -- to the Spanish island later that day.

Questioned about the flights on German TV news channel N-tv Wednesday, Gabriel said he had had no choice but to use the aircraft, as he was needed at a cabinet meeting in Berlin to ensure its quorum. "The Chancellory offered me the use of the air force aircraft," he said. "We still checked whether there were other flight options. There weren't any at the time, so we used the air force plane to ensure the quorum of the cabinet."

An air force plane can only be used if no other flights are available. However, according to Bild, the airline Air Berlin had several free seats to fly the minister back to Spain that afternoon.

In his defense, Gabriel told Bild that he had been asked to break off his holiday on the express wish of the Chancellory. According to German news agency DPA, a spokesman for the minister said Gabriel had flown back on the government jet because he had worked in Berlin until the evening and no commercial flights had been available at that time.



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