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While scientists call for urgent action on climate, Government predicts that aviation emissions will continue to grow

13th March, 2009

Climate scientists today urged politicians to stand up to “vested interests that increase emissions” and “build on a growing public desire for governments to act” in a new call for effective global action on climate change (Stern attacks politicians over climate ‘devastation’, Guardian 13/3/09). Economist Sir Nicholas Stern – reflecting on his 2006 report on the possible economic costs of failing to tackle climate change – told a conference in Mar 09: “Looking back, the Stern review underestimated the risks and underestimated the damage from inaction.

Yet a comprehensive plan for tackling UK aviation emissions is still lacking. The DfT’s latest forecasts indicate that aviation emissions could take up 49% of the UK’s total by this date. The previous forecast had suggested that aviation would contribute only 21% of CO2 emissions by 2050.

The 2009 figures include a range of projections, with some as low as 19%. Figures at the lower end of the scale rely, however, on the incorrect assumption that aviation is exempt from the UK’s commitment to reduce total emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), in its report to Government in December last year, stated explicitly that “The 80% target should apply to the sum of all sectors of the UK economy, including international aviation and shipping and the Government has since accepted the CCC’s recommendations.

The Government’s recognition that, if not appropriately constrained, aviation could take up half of the UK’s total CO2 budget (even without taking account of the non-CO2 impacts of aircraft) serves as a stark reminder that DfT plans for aviation growth put our chances of effective action on climate in jeopardy.

Kevin Anderson, research director at the UK Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, told a conference in Mar 09: “The scientists have lost patience with our carefully constructed messages being lost in the political noise. And we are now prepared to stand up and say enough is enough.”