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UK low carbon strategy keeps quiet on aviation

16th July, 2009

The Government has published its strategy for the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy, but no new measures have been announced for tackling aviation’s growing emissions.

The 2008 Climate Act states that emissions from international aviation should be included in the UK’s carbon budget from 2013 and that in the mean time they must be taken into account when the budgets are set.

But yesterday’s white paper, The UK low carbon transition plan, failed to show how forecast aviation emissions growth can be accommodated in the UK’s overall carbon budget. While a series of ambitions for reducing aviation emissions are referred to in the report – including the possible introduction of aviation biofuels, new aircraft designs coming on to the market, and more efficient use of airspace – the potential carbon savings from these improvements have already been factored into the Government’s projections released in January 2009. Their central forecast for aviation emissions suggested the sector could take up around 10% of the UK’s total carbon dioxide by 2020, possibly rising to over 40% by 2050.

Nevertheless the Government continues to resist changes to its aviation expansion plans. In an interview earlier this week climate change secretary Ed Miliband suggested that aviation should not be subjected to the same environmental targets as other sectors because of the Government’s desire for air travel to be affordable for the masses.

AEF considers that there are better ways to achieve this than by providing effective subsidies for the aviation sector. Taxation could, for example, by shifted away from income and employment and on to environmentally damaging activities – a policy the Labour party committed itself to when elected in 1997. Despite the rise of low cost carriers, CAA surveys indicate that it remains the rich who fly most so increases in the cost of flying would be borne primarily by the better off.

With sectors such as electricity, which everyone in the UK relies on, forecast to put up their prices to help cover green investment, perhaps there are better candidates than aviation for special Government measures to protect those on low incomes.

The UK low carbon transition plan is available on the DECC website.

Low carbon transport – a greener future has been published by the Department for Transport.