Skip to content

New report on aviation and climate change

Ahead of the Government’s response to the Committee on Climate Change report Meeting the UK Aviation Target , a report has been published by Airport Watch, setting out the importance of a sector-specific CO2 target for aviation. A press release follows.

Green groups warn Government over aviation CO2 emissions

Government must retain current UK aviation CO2 target and adopt Committee on Climate Change recommended flight limits in full

“Back door” airport expansion via planning system needs to be stopped right away until new UK-wide aviation policy in place

A major new report from AirportWatch (1), the UK umbrella alliance of green and community groups campaigning for sustainable aviation policies, entitled “Aviation and Climate Change Policy in the UK” (2) is published today, setting out a sophisticated policy mix of tough measures to control and reduce UK aviation’s growing carbon footprint that endorses the seminal December 2009 Committee on Climate Change report “Meeting the UK Aviation Target” (3).

AirportWatch would like to see the following actions implemented immediately:

• Clear confirmation that annual UK aviation CO2 emissions target to be no higher than 2005 levels in 2050, a total of 37.5 million tonnes (Mt) CO2 (as a minimum requirement)

• Strengthen this target by setting interim goals: average UK aviation emissions not to exceed 37.5 MtCO2 in any 5 year period through to 2050

• Mandatory 5 yearly assessments of aircraft fuel efficiency and CO2 performance improvements to check new aviation technology is delivering the industry’s promises

• Set tough mandatory sustainability criteria for all aviation biofuels at Government level: today’s voluntary standards are unacceptable and open to abuse

• All future airport development must now fit within the CCC 37.5 MtCO2 limit

• There must be mandatory regular updates on the non-CO2 impacts of aviation – NOx, condensation trails and cloud formation – which are known to be at least double the climate impact of CO2 alone. The 2050 target must be adjusted in the light of evolving atmospheric/climate change scientific knowledge

• A review of the impact of aviation’s inclusion in the EU’s ETS scheme and of Air Passenger Duty, in order to better understand the role taxes and charges play and at what level they might need to be to help achieve the 2050 aviation target

Tim Johnson, Director of the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), part of the AirportWatch network said:

Today’s report reminds the coalition Government that the CCC is their climate watchdog with a legal obligation to ensure our national climate targets are on track. The Government has already set a tough CO2 emissions target for UK air transport which must be retained and strengthened. The Government needs, however, to endorse the findings of the CCC and challenge industry to deliver its “aspirational” technology and efficiency goals as a major contribution towards meeting the 2050 target.

We would like to see the Government’s response to the CCC, due next week, (w/c 11th July 2011) go further. Two of our key recommendations are:

a) a mandatory 5 year assessment of whether or not improved technology and new aircraft purchases are actually happening, and at what rates, as we strive to implement the 37.5 MtCO2 emissions limit, and

b) interim goal-setting to ensure average UK aviation emissions do not exceed 37.5 MtCO2 in any 5 year period through to 2050.

“We need this kind of thorough analysis to track exactly where aviation emissions are going – guesswork and industry promises alone are not good enough.”

Jeff Gazzard (AEF) added:

We will see next week if the coalition Government is prepared to accept binding limits on UK aviation emissions that reinforce their welcome decision to say a resounding “NO” to damaging runway construction at Heathrow and elsewhere.

UK aviation can still grow from approximately 220 million passengers today to around 370 over time (4) ,with flights to and from the UK rising to 2.4 million, all within the CCC’s 2050 37.5 million tonnes CO2 target.

And if the industry ever manages to move beyond the sector’s current 1% p.a. efficiency gains – as its’ vague promises of technology advancement perpetually claim it might – then it may be possible to squeeze some more flights in within the target over the next 40 years.

We hope to see a consistent approach from the coalition Government that gives the CCC aviation report a gold star and, in so doing, reinforces their – and our – desire to curb rising CO2 emissions from aviation.

Avoiding damaging climate change impacts in particular were, after all, a powerful cornerstone of their “NO” to a 3rd runway at Heathrow policy.”

There can be no going back.”

The Department for Transport is required to make its response to the CCC’s 2009 report, on how aviation growth can be compatible with climate change targets, by July 2011.

Notes for Editors:

(1). The AirportWatch alliance comprises is a coalition of national environmental NGOs and local community groups around the UK’s airports and airfields.

(2). For the full report see note 2 on the AirportWatch press release.

(3). The previous Labour Government asked the Committee on Climate Change to advise it on how much aviation growth was permissible if the UK was to stay within its target to cut its overall carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2050. It found that flights should not grow by more than 55% (with passenger growth no more than 60%) from today’s levels. CCC Report Executive Summary December 2009:
http://downloads.theccc.org.uk/Aviation%20Report%2009/21667B%20CCC%20Exec%20Summary%20AW%20v2.pdf

(4). 60% increase on more than 230 million passengers in 2008, from CCC report.