Skip to content

Climate change bill consultation

The government issued a draft climate bill for consultation in March 2007 and invited comments by 12th June. The AEF encouraged its members to respond. A short briefing was given to members; this remains relevant as a digest of the key issues.


The government issued a draft climate bill for consultation in March 2007 and invited comments by 12th June. The AEF encouraged its members to respond. A short briefing was given to members; this remains relevant as a digest of the key issues

Targets

It is agreed by most scientists and observers that a target of around 80% is needed by 2050 in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

This would represent the UK’s equitable share towards stabilisation of atmospheric CO2 at 450 ppmv, which the latest climate science indicates is necessary to yield a reasonable chance of limiting global surface temperature rise to 2°C – the declared objective of the UK, the EU and the UN. The target should be subject to review by the Committee on Climate Change as the science develops.

Reporting and target periods

There need to be annual targets, not 5-years ones. While everyone recognises that there are fluctuations such as the weather which will affect the trend over a shorter period, this can be recognised and allowed for. Economic and other statistics are published annually (or more often) yet they are equally subject to short-term influences.

5 years is the maximum length of a parliament. 5-year targets mean that each government can claim, with some justification, that failure to meet the current target was the fault of the previous administration. With annual targets, there can be no such excuses.

Including aviation and shipping

The third and most critical issue for AEF is that emissions from international aviation (and also from international shipping) are not included. This could render the targets potentially useless because aviation threatens to swamp other emissions.

Aviation is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Without action to tackle emissions, the sector is on course to use up a significant fraction of the UK’s entire carbon budget.

The Department for Transport’s own projections show that aviation will emit 17.4 million tonnes of carbon (MtC) in 2050, equivalent to 26% of the UK total carbon allowance under a 60% cut.

However, estimates by independent researchers put the figures much higher. Owen and Lee estimated for DEFRA that aviation would use up 44% of the UK’s allowance while the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research puts the figure at 48%.

These figures assume only a 60% cut. Under an 80% cut, the figures are: DfT 52%, Owen and Lee 88%, Tyndall 98%.

The government’s reason for not including aviation and shipping is that there is no international agreement on how to allocate these emissions to individual states. This is a totally unconvincing reason.

The consultation document says that when agreement on allocation is reached, aviation might then be included. However, the chances of reaching agreement in the near future are remote. For the targets to be meaningful, aviation and shipping need to be included from the outset.

The bill is national procedure and, as such, the UK is free to decide how to apportion emissions irrespective of any international agreement. In the absence of more elaborate alternatives, the most an easy and valid approach is to include departing flights only. This is equivalent to apportioning to the UK half of emissions from international flights arriving and leaving UK airports.

In fact, the UK government already has a method which has international approval. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) publishes internationally-accepted guidelines to states on how to report emissions from international bunker fuels. The UK is required to submit this information as a memo item to UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change along with our annual Greenhouse gas inventory. Accordingly the Government has for several years compiled and reported official figures for emissions from international aviation.

Climate change bill consultation