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Government’s transport decarbonisation plan must include aviation, AEF argues

21st July, 2020

On 4th March, shortly before the Coronavirus lockdown began, the Government published Decarbonising Transport: setting the challenge, designed to represent the ‘first step’ towards a pathway to achieving carbon budgets and net zero emissions across every single mode of transport by 2050, it says.

Some transport campaigners see this document as a breath of fresh air from the Department for Transport, in particular its goal that ‘public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities’. But on aviation, all we see is – yet again –the Government’s failure to come up with any ideas or policies for bringing the sector into line with the wider decarbonisation agenda. 

‘Decarbonising transport’ glosses over the issue of whether international transport is included and says that a consultation on net zero aviation will be published ‘later this year’. Our concern is that an aviation climate policy always seems to be promised ‘soon’ or ‘later’, and we’ve been waiting almost nine months now for this particular consultation to see the light of day. The process for developing the aviation strategy, which an aviation climate consultation would feed in to, meanwhile seems to have ground to a halt.

We’ve argued, in our response to DfT, that the transport decarbonisation plan must take on the challenge of developing policy to tackling aviation emissions. Our submission sets out five reasons for this:

  1. The plan would be incomplete otherwise; including international aviation and shipping emissions increases the current share of UK transport emissions from 28% to 37%. This significantly increases the scale of the challenge in achieving net zero by 2050 but delaying action further can only have a disruptive impact on our chances of meeting this target.
  2. There’s no aviation climate policy coming from anywhere else any time soon, and without action on this hard-to-tackle sector, the UK’s net zero target won’t be achieved.
  3. We can’t leave the aviation industry to sort it out; its track record on achieving year on year emissions reductions isn’t good, and there are few incentives currently for airlines to make the big investments needed.
  4. We can’t wait for international policies to sort out the problem either; the current emissions goal of no net increase in emissions from 2020, agreed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, falls well short of the ambition needed to meet the Paris Agreement.
  5. Initiatives such as the Aviation Restart, Recovery and Engagement Unit, the Jet Zero Council, and the Net Zero Transport Board currently have no clear policy framework in terms of climate change

We conclude with an outline of some of the components of an aviation climate policy plan that would help to ensure decarbonisation in line with net zero. “The most important overarching measure”, we argue “that could and should be implemented to decarbonise aviation would be the explicit inclusion of international aviation emissions in the UK’s carbon accounts.”

For our full response, click here.