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Aviation emissions must not be allowed to drive carbon budget into the red, say MPs

The management of the carbon budget is as vital as the management of the fiscal budget, says a committee of MPs who have been analysing UK policy to control greenhouse gas emissions. And as emissions from aviation are set to continue growing the Government must ensure that this increase “does not impact adversely on the UK’s targets for reducing emissions or its carbon budgets”.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) undertook their inquiry following the publication in April 2009 of the UK Government’s first ever set of ‘carbon budgets’. These set a cap on emissions from the UK between now and 2022 and put us on a path to achieving the 80% reduction on our 1990 level of emissions to which the Climate Act 2008 now commits us. While some of the reductions in emissions must be made domestically, a proportion can be purchased from overseas, allowing reductions in emissions from Chinese factories, for example, to be counted as if they had been made in the UK.

In line with AEF’s consultation response, the EAC recommended that limits should be imposed on the use of these ‘offset’ credits, suggesting that the UK should only accept emissions credits (whether from the EU ETS or any other scheme) for use within UK carbon budgets if they have come from countries that have implemented equivalent national emissions targets and managed to cut emissions below them.

EAC also quoted AEF evidence showing that the advice of the Committee on Climate Change to include aviation emissions in the UK’s long-term target to cut emissions by 80% had not been properly understood by some Government departments. The report recommends that as long as aviation is left out of our shorter term carbon budgets, the Government should make clear the impact of emissions from aviation and shipping on progress towards meeting the UK’s overall targets for reducing emissions.

After the ‘wreckage’ of Copenhagen, it is essential for countries like the UK to show that we are serious about tackling our own contribution to climate change by making genuine domestic progress against our emissions targets, said EAC. In fact, the Committee argues, the UK is on track to meet the targets in the first carbon budget only because of the impact of the recession.

“It is crucial that the UK shows leadership and the UK’s negotiating position in any future talks on climate change that follow the Copenhagen Accord will only be credible if developing countries see that our position is backed by real commitments to action”, concludes the report.

For AEF’s response to EAC’s consultation on carbon budgets, click here.

For EAC’s press release and full report see the EAC homepage.