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Danish environmentalist party accused of hypocrisy over flights

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Danish environmentalist party accused of hypocrisy over flights
Alternative leader Uffe Elbæk. Photo: oto: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix
16:13 CET+01:00
The flying habits of members of Danish environmentalist party The Alternative (Alternativet) have been in the spotlight in recent weeks, with some political opponents pouncing on party MPs’ flights as hypocritical.
The Alternative positions itself as Denmark’s ‘greenest’ party and has encouraged Danes to live in more environmentally-friendly ways, including cutting down on their meat consumption and avoiding flying because of the carbon emissions of air travel. 
 
It has also expressed support for taxing both air travel and meat as a way to encourage more environmentally-friendly behaviour. 
 
But the party is now being accused of hypocrisy because of its own members’ flying habits. A few weeks ago, Alternative’s political spokeswoman Caroline Magdalene Maier was the subject of scrutiny after the right-wing Free Speech Blog called her “parliament’s biggest carbon pig” and documented her many travels. The blog revealed some 20 flights between November 2015 and October 2018 to 13 different countries.
 
The story was then picked up by the mainstream Danish press and Maier was forced to apologize and promise to “improve my habits”. 
 
“The task of reducing Danes’ CO2 emissions is first and foremost political. But naturally, we can all contribute personally by changing our habits until we’ve accomplished our goal of political regulations. That also pertains to me. And I have not been a good example in recent years. I admit it,” Maier wrote in a lengthy Facebook comment
 
This week, attention shifted to the habits of the party’s leader – and prime minister candidate – Uffe Elbæk. Appearing on the political talk show Deadline on Tuesday night, Elbæk was asked how many times he has travelled by plane in recent years. 
 
He took to Facebook on Wednesday to write that he has taken 40 flights since 2015. He broke down his recent travels both by year and by purpose, saying he had taken 33 flights for professional reasons and seven for private trips. 
 
He said he is more aware of the environmental impacts of his travelling and eating habits than he was just a few years ago. 
 
“As I said in the Deadline interview [on Tuesday night], today I put much more consideration into how I can fly less often – both privately and professionally as a party leader – than I did just two years ago. I think many people are in the same position, particularly after the historically warm summer we just had,” Elbæk wrote. 
 
In the Deadline interview, he said he tries to counteract his CO2 emissions by contributing financially to the protection of the rainforest. While he said he and his party attempt to offset their carbon footprint, more should be done at the societal level. 
 
“That’s why those of us in The Alternative suggest a climate tax on flights that would be higher the more you fly. We want to see massive investments in electric plans. We want a general tax on CO2 and we want higher prices on jet fuel,” he wrote. 
 
He said that the Alternative is sometimes unfairly held to higher standards because of the party’s political policies. 
 
“The Alternative is an imperfect party of imperfect people,” Elbæk said on Deadline. 
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