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Government approves fifth carbon budget but no aviation emissions plan

30th June, 2016

The Government has today (30th June) approved the fifth carbon budget recommended by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). Each carbon budget covers a period of four years; the fifth budget will be from 2028-2032 (see GOV.UK website). The budgets ensure that the economy is on track to deliver the 2050 goal of an 80% emissions cut that is required under the UK’s Climate Change Act.

While the fifth budget does not formally cover emissions from international aviation, like budgets 1-4 it allows ‘headroom’ for these emissions, on the assumption that they are included in the 2050 goal.  This means that the carbon budget available to the included sectors is reduced in order to account for aviation emissions.

Unaffected by Brexit

The requirement to set a budget is unaffected by the vote to leave the EU. While many environmental regulations are derived from European Directives, the Climate Change Act was conceived and legislated in the UK and is not directly related to our membership of the European Union. It was passed in 2008 with very strong cross party support, and only five MPs voting against it. It now represents a minimum level of ambition for the UK under the global climate change agreement reached in Paris in December 2015.

No aviation emissions plan

Carbon budgets have been set on the assumption that UK aviation emissions do not exceed 37.Mt by 2050, but CO2 from the sector is currently forecast to overshoot this level even without a new runway and to be higher still if expansion is permitted. While the Airports Commission argued that in theory a new runway could be compatible with a stabilisation in aviation emissions, it never explained how this could be achieved in practice. Similarly, the Government has not responded to the CCC’s request to set out a plan on how it intends to reduce aviation emissions to 37.5 Mt.

Cait Hewitt, AEF Deputy Director, said:

We welcome today’s announcement, which reinforces the UK’s commitment to our climate legislation, and to ensuring that all sectors play a part in achieving this. A new runway should now be ruled out unless the Government can come up with a plan for tackling emissions from aviation that is in line with the Climate Change Act.


Image credit: Ma.sum via Flickr