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Developed countries must halt growth in aviation emissions, says Climate Committee

9th September, 2009


Aviation should plan for deep cuts in its CO2 emissions compared to baseline projections, the Committee on Climate Change told government today. The sector needs a global cap, with emissions trading allowing flexibility for greenhouse gases to be reduced cost effectively, but in the longer term, emissions cuts will need to be made at home.

For the UK to be able to cut emissions by 80% while allowing aviation emissions to grow in the short term, other sectors will need to make cuts of around 90%, says the Committee. The government’s target for aviation is that by 2050 emissions should be brought down to 2005 levels: an increase of 120% percent compared with 1990 levels (note).

Despite the rise of low cost carriers, it is those on higher incomes who fly the most, while 50% of the population don’t fly at all in any given year. So with sectors such as electricity, which everyone in the UK relies on, likely to put up their prices to help cover green investment, people could find themselves picking up the tab for aviation without even setting foot on a plane.

But even the more generous target set for aviation will be challenging, as there are currently no technologies offering radical cuts in aircraft emissions: planes are set to remain dependent on oil. While improvements in aircraft and engine technology have made aircraft more efficient, these incremental reductions have been swamped by the growth in flights.

AEF Director, Tim Johnson, said:

“We welcome the Committee’s call for a global agreement on tackling aviation emissions and urge ministers to make sure this issue is addressed at the Copenhagen talks in December. But developing countries are not going to sign up to climate targets unless they can see real action from countries like the UK, where people fly more than anywhere else in the world.

“To have a chance of bringing aviation emissions back down to 2005 levels by 2050 the government will need to look again at the expansion plans they set out for UK airports in 2003. Aviation emissions have more than doubled since 1990 and are set to carry on rising under government growth projections.”


For more information, contact Tim Johnson on or 0207 248 2223.

Note: The Department for Transport’s UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 Forecasts, published in January 2009 gave aviation emissions figures of 16.9 MtCO2 in 1990, and 37.5 MtCO2 in 2005.