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​Government sidesteps difficult aviation CO2 emissions question in response to Committee on Climate Change

15th October, 2015

​Government sidesteps difficult aviation CO2 emissions question in response to Committee on Climate Change

Aviation Environment Federation (AEF)[1] is very concerned that the Government made no commitment in today’s (15th Oct) response [2] to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) progress report to address the recommendation for a framework to manage aviation emissions, despite it being a key challenge for a Government decision on airport expansion in the South East (due before the end of 2015)[3].

The CCC recommended in its annual progress report to Parliament that the Government should “publish an effective policy framework for aviation emissions” that plans for UK 2050 emissions being no higher than 2005 levels, at or below 37.5mT, (implying around a 60% increase in demand)[4].

Modelling by the Airports Commission has shown that in the absence of new policy action, aviation emissions are set to exceed the level recommended by the CCC without airport expansion and building a new runway would further increase emissions[5]. AEF therefore considers it a significant and notable gap that none of the Airports Commission’s proposed conditions for a third runway at Heathrow addresses its climate change impact, throwing the problem back to Government.

Instead of committing to provide the answers, the Government has sidestepped the issue, leaving open the prospect of Heathrow expansion without any concrete solutions to aviation’s soaring emissions [6].

Cait Hewitt, AEF Deputy Director, commented on the Government’s response:

“The need for a plan to tackle aviation emissions is important whether or not a new runway goes ahead, but we’re particularly concerned that the Government has committed to taking a decision on airport expansion this year without a plan being in place for tackling the extra emissions this will generate.”

“A decision in favour of a new runway without having a realistic emissions framework in place would be putting the UK’s climate change commitments at risk.”

The Government’s response to the CCC has been published the day after Cait Hewitt gave evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee on whether the mitigation options for CO2 emissions proposed by the Airports Commission are realistic and deliverable. More information in notes [7].


Contact the AEF Office for more information 020 3102 1509 /

Notes to editor

[1] The Aviation Environment Federation is the leading UK organisation campaigning exclusively on the environmental impacts of aviation. We represent community groups and individuals around many of the UK’s airports and airfields.

[2] Government response to Committee on Climate Change advice can be found here Pages 30-31 cover the aviation recommendation

[3] Several senior members of the Cabinet have said that a decision on airport expansion will be made between now and the end of the year including David Cameron, George Osborne and the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin

[4] Relevant section of the CCC full report to Parliament: Section 4 in the transport section (p.145). AEF called for the Government to honour this

[5] UK aviation CO2 emissions with a third runway at Heathrow are forecast by the Airports Commission to be 43.3 Mt by 2050, 15.5% above the limit recommended by the Committee on Climate Change of 37.5 Mt. Details in the Airports Commission final report.

[6] Aviation accounted for around 6% of UK emissions in 2013 but even if emissions are constrained to the level recommended by the CCC, emissions will account for a quarter of the UK’s total in 2050.

[7] The Environmental Audit Committee evidence session is available to view here