Will the Treasury exclude shipping and aviation from carbon targets?
A coalition of green groups has condemned the Treasury and DfTs move to remove international aviation and shipping from the UK’s 2050 carbon targets. DfT officials told an Energy and Climate Change select committee hearing last week that the UK could save money in the future for other sectors of the economy if aviation and shipping were to remain outside of the UK’s 5th carbon budget, due for consideration in 2015. The DfT did note that this would sacrifice the environmental benefit of including them in the budget, but is now thought to be working with the Treasury to highlight potential savings arising from exempting the two sectors, which are likely to account for around a quarter of the UK’s total emissions by 2050. Green groups say that leaving aviation and shipping out of the UK carbon targets would put at risk the UK’s target of delivering 80% emissions cuts across the economy by 2050. Instead of the 160 million tonnes of CO2 emissions the UK could emit by 2050 and keep within its goal, the country would be pumping out around 200 million tonnes should shipping and aviation be excluded.
Green groups angered as officials tell select committee the move would save money for other parts of the economy
22 Oct 2012
A coalition of green groups has condemned the Treasury and Department for Transport’s alleged move to remove aviation and shipping from the UK’s 2050 carbon targets.
Department for Transport (DfT) officials reportedly told an Energy and Climate Change select committee hearing last week that the UK could save money in the future for other sectors of the economy if aviation and shipping were to remain outside of the UK’s fifth carbon budget, due for consideration in 2015.
The DfT did note that this would sacrifice the environmental benefit of including them in the budget, but is now thought to be working with the Treasury to highlight potential savings arising from exempting the two sectors, which are likely to account for around a quarter of the UK’s total emissions by 2050.
The rumoured move has angered campaigners, who claim that although aviation and shipping could be added to the fifth carbon budget at a late date, excluding them altogether would put at risk the UK’s target of delivering 80 per cent emissions cuts across the economy by the middle of this century.
The 2050 goal is part of the UK’s commitment to keeping global temperature rises below the 2C threshold most scientist agree is vital to avoid the worse effects of climate change.
Instead of the 160 million tonnes of CO2 emissions the UK could emit by 2050 and keep within its goal, the country would be pumping out around 200 million tonnes should shipping and aviation be excluded, according to Aviation Watch,[AirportWatch] an umbrella group including the Aviation Environment Federation, Friends of the Earth, and many other green organisations.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which advises the government on emissions, has recommended including the sectors in the UK’s carbon budgets, insisting there would be no additional burden to the economy and arguing that other sectors of the economy would not have to make deeper emission cuts to compensate.
David Kennedy, CCC chief executive, told the select committee last week that excluding the sectors from the budgets would mean the UK would be very likely to miss its over-arching climate objectives for 2050.
Meanwhile, representatives of Sustainable Aviation and the UK Chamber of Shipping said they were comfortable with inclusion in the carbon budget and that both industries are already working on greater fuel efficiency in response to rising oil prices.
Susan Person, communications director at AirportWatch, said this was no time to water down the UK’s climate change targets, given the ongoing battle over decarbonising the power sector.
“It appears that the Treasury and the DfT are prepared to sacrifice crucial longer term goals for the sake of unproven short term savings,” she said in a statement. “Yet it is absolutely clear that exclusion of aviation and shipping emissions from the UK’s carbon targets would seriously weaken our commitment to reducing global carbon emissions.
“There is no room for badly thought out exclusions. We can only make the cuts that are needed if all sectors play their part.”
The DfT had not responded to a request for comment at time of going to press.
The controversy comes as the current consultation on national aviation policy comes to a close. The government published its draft Aviation Policy Framework in July, which postponed a review on the vexed issue of airport capacity until last month.
More capacity should in theory open up new routes to emerging markets and allow the UK to maintain competition with major hubs in Holland and France. But green groups argue there is substantial spare capacity within the current system and any increase in capacity will blow the country’s carbon budgets, rejecting claims emissions trading and cleaner technologies would result in the necessary emissions reductions.
Sir Howard Davies, a former head of the CBI and adviser to Lord Lawson, is chairing a commission examining the issue of whether to increase airport capacity but is not due to report until 2015.
In the meantime, London Mayor Boris Johnson has launched his own review into boosting capacity in the South East, which is likely to reveal its findings in summer 2013.
Businesses have been pushing for a third runway at Heathrow, an idea staunchly opposed by the Mayor and ruled out in the coalition agreement, but seemingly gaining traction among Conservatives MPs following intense lobbying.
And just last week, Gatwick announced it is drawing up plans for a second runway, potentially increasing capacity to 70 million passengers a year.
From GreenAir online (with a lot of detail from what was said at the evidence session of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee
UK government uncertainty over whether to include international aviation emissions in carbon budgets
23.10.2012 (GreenAir online)
Tue 23 Oct 2012 – With emissions from aviation and shipping likely to make up a quarter of the total UK output by 2050, it would be impossible to achieve national climate objectives without including the two sectors in reduction targets, the head of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) told a House of Commons select committee last week. Under the UK’s flagship Climate Change Act 2008, the UK government is required to tell Parliament before the end of the year whether it intends to include the sectors’ international emissions in its legally binding carbon budgets but it is yet to reach a conclusion. Representatives from the UK aviation and shipping industries told MPs they were comfortable with the inclusion but a government minister and officials said the issue was complex and were equivocal about what decision would be made, which has left environmental groups unhappy. A possible scenario could be for the government to accept inclusion of international aviation emissions in principle but wait on developments with the EU ETS and at ICAO.
The UK target to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 compared with 2000 has to include aviation and shipping, David Kennedy, Chief Executive of the CCC, which is the UK government’s advisor on climate change, told the committee. “For the government not to accept our advice would be a watering down of ambition,” he said.
The target is to cut overall UK emissions back to 160 million tonnes of CO2e by 2050, with aviation and shipping making up 40 million tonnes of the total. Without their inclusion it would require an 85% reduction from other sectors, he said, adding: “As it doesn’t involve any extra costs, why wouldn’t you do it?”
Said Kennedy: “If we went for a UK unilateral approach to aviation or shipping then there would be costs associated with that. This is an accounting tidy up which is why we don’t favour the UK going on a totally different path. We are very clear that the basis for inclusion should be European or international policies that are in place or we expect to be in place.”
He said the amount for emissions from aviation to be added in to the carbon budgets should reflect the cap set under the EU ETS, although the challenges from China, the United States and other countries against the EU ETS had raised questions about the scheme and about the appropriate timing to bring in aviation emissions. “Do you bring them in now, when the EU ETS cap may change, in which case you might change that number in the future, depending on what happens with the EU ETS or a global agreement at ICAO, or do you wait? Because there is a high degree of uncertainty we will not do that until there is a resolution.
“There is a debate to be had about the precise timing but the principle should be very clear that these emissions should be in the carbon accounting framework.”
Greg Barker, the UK’s energy and climate change minister, told the committee that the coalition government took the issue of aviation and shipping emissions “very seriously” and recognised they should be dealt with at an international level to be most effective.
“We believe the EU ETS is the most cost-effective way of reducing net aviation emissions. The question of how to reflect international emissions within the UK’s domestic carbon accounting framework is, however, a complex one. The methodology required to implement any decision to include them is also complex and will require very careful verification indeed. It is for these reasons that the emissions were excluded from the Act in 2008.”
He pointed out the targets defined in the Act did not include international aviation and shipping but the CCC’s targets did.
He said that due to the complexity, consultations were still ongoing with “cabinet colleagues” over the environmental and economic impacts of a decision but his department was testing the validity and robustness of the CCC’s methodologies, particularly in relation to Aviation EU ETS data it had recently received. He said a decision would be reported to Parliament before the end of the year and would take careful account of CCC advice.
An official from the Department for Transport (DfT) told the hearing that as well as the environmental impact of a decision, a very important factor was costs. He said it was key that international agreements delivered the necessary levels of ambition in emissions reductions. Another DfT official said there were cost implications for UK industry as a whole of between 0.5 and 2% of GDP beyond the 4th Budget period (2023-2027) if international aviation and shipping emissions were included, even though there may be environmental benefits.
Barker declined to answer a suggestion by the chairman of the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, Tim Yeo, that it was possible the government might accept the CCC’s recommendation in principle to include international aviation and shipping emissions but to implement it at a later date due to current international political uncertainties.
The minister did admit that the hostile scale of the opposition by major powers to the inclusion of international aviation emissions into the EU ETS was “clearly a very serious challenge” but he believed there was still some way for the negotiating process to run and there was a need for ICAO to engage. A DfT official said the UK was working closely with both ICAO and IMO, in particular on the ICAO CO2 standard. Good progress was being made, although not fast enough for some stakeholders but negotiations were complex, he added.
Representing the UK aviation industry at the hearing, Dr Andy Jefferson, Programme Director with the Sustainable Aviation group said he supported the inclusion of international aviation emissions in UK carbon budgets, based on the UK share of the EU ETS cap as long as delivery was met through internationally agreed carbon trading.
He said an appropriately implemented EU ETS was a good starting point towards a global carbon trading solution encompassing all of aviation that ensured a level playing field for all participants. “We do not support unilateral UK targets, however, as we believe this will lead to carbon leakage, market distortion and the loss of economic benefit to our international competitors,” he added.
Putting forward an international perspective, Andrew Herdman, representing the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) and who is also Director General of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, warned the committee that the UK aviation sector would pay a high price through global uncompetitiveness if the UK government and the EU pursued unilateral policies. He said it was a “flimsy bridge” for UK policy-makers to base their targets on the EU ETS.
“Even if you buy the argument about an accounting tidy-up, I would caution about putting international aviation emissions into the carbon budget at this juncture given the uncertainty over the EU ETS and what form an ICAO global scheme might take,” he said. “The accounting and allocation of emissions is the nub of trying to structure a global agreement.”
Dr Keith Allott, Head of Climate Change at WWF-UK, said excluding aviation and shipping emissions from the carbon budget would raise fears about the government’s commitment to the climate change Act and to 2 degrees warming. He said there were concerns that certain government departments, including the Treasury, were resistant to the CCC’s recommendations because of the cost implications.
His organisation also supported a global agreement for aviation but, he added, no industry can get a free ride, either on dealing with climate change or on contributing its fair share of the tax burden.
After the hearing, Allott’s concerns over the possibility that the CCC’s recommendations may not be taken up by the government were expressed in a statement from AirportWatch, an umbrella group of environmental campaigners.
“It appears that the Treasury and the DfT are prepared to sacrifice crucial longer term goals for the sake of unproven short-term savings,” said its Communications Director, Susan Pearson. “Yet it is absolutely clear that exclusion of aviation and shipping emissions from the UK’s carbon targets would seriously weaken our commitment to reducing global carbon emissions. The need for carbon reduction is as urgent as ever – why would the UK consider watering down our targets? There is no room for badly thought out exclusions.”