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Aviation emissions should be allowed to grow while other sectors take the strain, Government advisors recommend

1st December, 2008

The body appointed by to design the UK’s climate change strategy out to 2050 has today published its advice to Government. As indicated in its interim advice, the Committee on Climate Change has recommended that the UK as a whole needs to make an 80% cut in 1990 emissions by 2050. But while emissions from international aviation should be taken account of in this target, they should not be subject to the five-yearly emissions budgets that other sectors face, says the Committee.

Sectors such as power and road transport will be expected to almost completely decarbonise over coming decades. But aviation emissions, argues the Committee’s report, should be allowed to increase, since there are so few options in terms of alternative power for aircraft. To take account of this increase, other sectors will be required to make even deeper reductions than they would have done otherwise. Emissions from international aviation will be monitored by the Committee, which will recommend ‘appropriate policy levers’ to bring them into line with overall budgets.

The only aviation policy in fact discussed in the report, however, is the EU emissions trading scheme, due to be extended to aviation from 2012. The European agreement to include aviation in the scheme, states the Committee, means that it is “not essential to have international aviation included in the UK budgets in order to ensure pressure for emissions reduction.” No recommendations are made with respect to the current UK policy of aviation and airport expansion.

AEF has a number of concerns about this approach, notably in relation to the Committee’s assertion that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme will effectively constrain aviation emissions. We are also concerned that the additional climate change impacts that result from aircraft operating at altitude will not be adequately covered in the UK strategy. For all sectors apart from international aviation and shipping, the targets recommended by the Committee will apply to all greenhouse gas emissions, but for aviation only carbon dioxide emissions will be taken into account, on the basis that there is scientific uncertainty around how best to quantify the additional impacts from emissions at altitude.

The Committee on Climate Change report is available at