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Aviation threatens UK climate target – despite DfT forecasts

23rd February, 2009

In Nov 2007, DfT produced estimates of aviation’s proportion of the UK’s total CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions.  In our view, the calculations had some very significant flaws, resulting in misleadingly low %s.

The DfT (Department for Transport) estimates gave aviation’s proportions of UK CO2 emissions as 6.4% in 2005, but rising to 20.6% in 2050. (The year 2050 is significant because the UK and world climate strategies and targets all focus on that date.).

DfT’s figures for all greenhouse gases (GHGs) were 9.9% in 2005 and 29.0% in 2050.

AEF has re-calculated the figures and while we do not disagree with the 2005 figure, our figures for 2050 figures are 55% for CO2 and 83% for GHGs.

These are massive figures and show that aviation, unless controlled, could make it virtually impossible for the UK to achieve its climate targets. The figures indicate that the DfT forecasts are dangerously misleading.            

There are 3 main reasons why we consider the DfT’s estimates to be flawed:
a). While the DfT’s forecasts of passengers up to 2030 appear reasonable, the ones up to 2050 are not.  DfT assumes a complete change in policy at 2030 such that new capacity is not provided to meet demand.
b). DfT calculations assume that the 60% reduction target at 2050 excludes international aviation.
c). DfT calculations are based on 60% cuts and not on 80% cuts.

AEF has re-calculated aviation’s % of emissions, applying adjustments sequentially to allow for each of the above 3 issues.  The results for 2050 are summarised below.





 20.6 %
(2005 figure 6.4 %)

 29.0 %
(2005 figure 9.9 %)

 a) AEF adjusted
     2030 to 2050

 23.0 %

 32.0 %

 b) Including aviation
     in the target
     reduction of 60%

 27.4 %

 41.4 %

 c) Reduction target
     of 80%, not 60%

 55.0 %

 82.8 %


Full details of the calculations and a critique of DfT estimates may be found in AEF paper no. 7 (Word document, 17 pages incl apps).

Stop press. DfT has updated its forecasts. We understand that the aviation demand figures and methodology are not significantly changed, but the DfT had to alter it’s %s to allow for the 80% cuts (not 60%) in the government’s climate act. We will by studying the new figures in detail – and no doubt will have to do out own re-calculations.