Aviation must not be dropped from UK carbon target, say campaigners
AirportWatch has condemned plans to exclude international aviation and shipping from the UK’s carbon budgets, a move they claim would seriously damage the country’s targets to cut climate change emissions. Any suggestion from DfT and the Treasury for removal of aviation and shipping from the UK’s fifth carbon budget, due for consideration in 2015 will be actively opposed. At a select committee on energy and climate change meeting this week the DfT argued that the UK could save money in future if it were to drop aviation and shipping emissions from its 2050 target. The DfT did however note that this would sacrifice the environmental benefit of including them. The Committee on Climate Change stressed at the meeting that excluding these important sectors (likely to account for around 25% of the UK’s total emissions by 2050) would mean the UK would be very likely to miss our climate objective of limiting the risk of global warming exceeding 2 degrees C and there was now no good reason for excluding them. Representatives of the aviation and shipping industries confirmed that they were comfortable with aviation and shipping being included in budgets. Neither industry would either attract further costs or need to limit expansion as a result of their inclusion.
AirportWatch (AW) has condemned plans to exclude international aviation and shipping from the UK’s carbon budgets, a move they claim would seriously damage the country’s targets to cut climate change emissions.
The campaigning group, a national umbrella organisation opposing unsustainable airport expansion, said they would actively oppose any suggestion from the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Treasury for removal of aviation and shipping from the UK’s fifth carbon budget, due for consideration in 2015.
The statement came following a select committee on energy and climate change meeting this week at which the DfT argued that the UK could save money in future if it were to drop aviation and shipping emissions from its 2050 target. The DfT did however note that this would sacrifice the environmental benefit of including them. AW said they understood the DfT is liaising with the Treasury to highlight the potential future cost savings of exempting aviation and shipping from the UK’s Climate Act.
However, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) Chief Executive, David Kennedy, stressed at the meeting that excluding these important sectors (likely to account for around 25% of the UK’s total emissions by 2050) would mean the UK would be very likely to miss our climate objective of limiting the risk of global warming exceeding 2 degrees. He argued that there was now no good reason for excluding aviation and shipping from future carbon budgets. Aviation and shipping are already taken account of in CCC projections to 2050, he said, meaning there would be no extra cost to the UK economy of formally including them.
The CCC has set the UK target of 80% carbon cuts by 2050, as part of the UK’s international responsibilities towards cutting 50% of global carbon emissions by 2050.
The aviation and the shipping industry representatives (Dr Andy Jefferson, Programme Director, Sustainable Aviation and David Balston, Director of Safety and Environment, UK Chamber of Shipping) present at the meeting agreed they were comfortable with aviation and shipping being included in budgets. Neither industry would attract further costs due to energy cutting as both industries are already working on greater fuel efficiency in response to rising oil prices.
AirportWatch Communications Director Susan Pearson said:
“It appears that the Treasury and the DfT are prepared to sacrifice crucial longer term goals for the sake of unproven short term savings. 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.
“It has never been more important to fight climate change. The science shows that even the global 50% cut by 2050 may not be enough, and our 80% cut may not be enough. 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.
“We can only make the cuts that are needed if all sectors play their part. Aviation should both make its fair payments towards taxes, and make its contribution to helping to cut carbon emissions.
“The current consultation on national aviation policy is due to end on 31 October. We urge anyone who is concerned about aviation’s contribution to the UK’s climate change burden to respond to that consultation. Information on how to respond can be found on our website at: www.airportwatch.org.uk.”
Ms Pearson also commented that the Government cannot rely solely on either ‘cleaner’ technology or the EU Emissions Trading System to guarantee sufficient reductions in emissions.
Notes for editors
1] The UK cannot fulfil its climate change targets if the aviation industry is allowed to grow unabated. Aviation accounts for at least 13% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions (if non-CO2 impacts are accounted for – about 6.5% counting CO2 alone) and the proportion is set to grow. If the industry grows as much as it wants, emissions from aviation could make our carbon ambitions impossible to achieve.
The 80% target must be economy wide to deliver the ambition of limiting warming to 2 degrees. Total economy emissions should not be higher than 160 Mt CO2, according to the CCC. If aviation and shipping are not counted as part of this and are simply added on, emissions will be around 200 Mt CO2 – too high to meet the climate objective.
2] AirportWatch’s position is that Government should not subsidise R&D in the aviation and aerospace sectors with the objective of reducing aircraft emissions as this is the same as improving fuel efficiency. This is in the commercial interests of the aerospace industry and should therefore be funded by the industry itself. In any case, the CO2 benefits of efficiency gains are being offset by increasing numbers of long haul flights, a trend that is likely to continue.
3] The EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) has the potential to help constrain carbon emissions. However, aviation has only been included in this system since January 2012 and has been given preferential treatment compared to other sectors – with limits based on 2004-2006 average emission levels rather than the 1990 levels that apply to all other sectors.
Generous allocations of permits within the EU ETS and the methods for offsetting have meant that the carbon price has stayed extremely low and the system has done nothing so far to reduce aviation emissions. In addition, the EU ETS does not take into account aviation’s non-CO2 emissions.
The CCC highlights that if too many sectors assume that they will be able to continue buying permits rather than making their own emissions reductions the permits will become extortionate as demand rises. This will lead to failed companies and abandoned infrastructure or political pressures will conspire to weaken the terms of the EU ETS.
For the EU ETS to work, and for international efforts to agree on emissions curbs to succeed, politicians must plan for the future and accept that aviation won’t be able to keep buying cheap emissions permits for very much longer.
NGOs and industry call for inclusion of aviation and shipping in UK Carbon budgets
NGOs and industry are calling on ministers to accept the advice of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to include emissions from international aviation and shipping (IA&S) in the carbon budgets required under the UK’s Climate Change Act.
The groups said that the decision, which the Government must take by the end of the year, [which in effect means by 20th December] was central to the integrity of the Act, which says that all sectors of the economy should contribute towards a cut in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 80% by 2050.
Jean Leston, senior transport policy advisor at WWF-UK, said: “This year the Government’s commitment on environmental issues has been seriously questioned. This opportunity to take the advice of the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to include emissions from international aviation and shipping in UK carbon budgets gives an opportunity for the Prime Minister to prove, as he said recently, that the Government has a ‘very progressive set of green policies’.
“A delay, or worse rejection, of the CCC’s advice would undermine the integrity of the UK Climate Change Act and would be the first time any Government has rejected the CCC’s advice. As such, it’s a serious test of the Government’s commitment to being the greenest ever.”
Cait Hewitt, AEF Deputy Director, said: “The Climate Change Act is a world-leading legal commitment by the UK to cutting emissions by 80% emissions by 2050; all major economies have signed up to similar goals. But for that 80% target to deliver its climate objective, it must cover all sectors of the economy. The Government should clarify how international aviation and shipping emissions will be accounted for by formally including them in carbon budgets.”
Notes to editors:
- International aviation and shipping (IA&S) are the fastest growing sources of carbon dioxide contributing to climate change, which together could account for more than 30% of global emissions by 2030. In the UK, aviation emissions have more than doubled since 1990 and passenger growth is forecast by DfT to increase by 2% per year to 2050.
- Currently IA&S are not accounted for in the UK’s formal carbon budgeting framework. The 2008 Climate Change Act (CCA) agreed in principle to consider these sectors, but for methodological reasons they were not formally included in the 80% emission reduction target enshrined in the Act itself. Provision was made in the Act to put forward proposals to include them by 31 December 2012 unless there was a good reason not to.
- The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has consistently recommended that all sectors contribute towards delivering the 80% cut in emissions, from their inaugural report in 2008 through to their advice in 2012 which now recommends the formal inclusion of IA&S in the Act.
- In practice the first four carbon budgets for other sectors already take into account emissions from IA&S. Successive governments have accepted these budgets with all the associated costs and benefits. The formal inclusion of IA&S does not have any additional costs beyond what has already been accepted as it reflects current Government commitments to address emissions from these sectors.
- Importantly the formal inclusion of these sectors would provide clarity and confidence to investors that the Government is committed to delivering emission reductions across the whole economy. It would ensure that the current approach to setting carbon budgets continues and remove any ambiguity regarding the interpretation of the Act in relation to IA&S.
- An outright rejection by the Government of the CCC’s advice would be a major blow to the credibility of the Government’s environmental credentials. It would undermine the first four carbon budgets, and damage the integrity of the Act itself. Indeed, a recent letter to the Government from the ECC committee cautioned that a decision to exclude aviation and shipping from the UK’s carbon accounts would water down the 2050 target. A rejection would also be the first time the Government has rejected the CCC’s advice, and as such would be a serious departure from science-based policy.