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Bringing aviation into line with net zero

In 2019, the UK legislated to increase the ambition of our national climate target, and to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. But while domestic aviation has always been covered by national climate law, emissions from international aviation, which represented 96% of total UK aviation emissions in 2018, are not yet formally included in this target.

When the UK’s Climate Change Act was first drafted, international aviation and shipping were left out of carbon budgets because questions about how to account for these emissions still hadn’t been resolved. The Committee on Climate Change, which advises the Government on how to achieve its climate law, has argued that international aviation and shipping should now be included in the legislation, to guide long-term policy approaches and infrastructure investment decisions. There are no practical barriers to doing this, the committee says.

British passport holders take more international flights than travellers of any other nationality

We believe that emissions from aviation should be included in the UK’s net zero plan. We are continuing our work to support the development of international measures for aviation through the UN aviation body ICAO, but existing international policies are not ambitious enough to bring aviation into line with the goals of the Paris Agreement or the net zero target to which the UK has committed without additional action being taken. With British passport holders taking more international flights than travellers of any other nationality, it is essential that we take responsibility for these emissions at a national level, whilst continuing to advocate through the UN for a levelling up of the global action on aviation emissions. Further progress at the international level is unlikely before 2022 at the earliest.

We believe that emissions from aviation should be included in the UK’s net zero plan.

What do we want to see?

  • The UK should include emissions from international aviation and shipping in our net zero target when legislating, in 2021, for the sixth carbon budget.
  • The Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan and the aviation net zero consultation, both of which are due to be published in 2021, should between them set out the interim targets, policies and measures to ensure that UK aviation is net zero by 2050, in line with other sectors of the economy.