Chris Grayling’s evidence to the Environmental Audit Cttee on climate – in relation to Heathrow runway
Chris Grayling, and Caroline Low from the DfT, gave oral evidence to the Environmental Audit Cttee on 30th November. Chris Grayling was not able to give the committee satisfactory assurances on how much UK aviation emissions would rise, due to a new runway. Nor was he able to comment on the CO2 cuts needed by other sectors, to accommodate aviation CO2 rise. He said: “Of course in the case of carbon emissions, there is no law of the land that requires us to meet any particular target.” When asked by Mary Creagh when we could see the aviation emissions strategy, Grayling could give no answer other than an evasive: “documentation on that expansion will be published in the new year.” Grayling’s responses indicate only an incomplete grasp of the facts on carbon, avoiding specific answers to questions, but with the intention of allowing aviation expansion (and perhaps later trying to sort out the problem). He hides behind the CCC as much as possible. On the issue of non-CO2 impacts, he says “there is no international evidence at the moment”for this” – and then some half-digested waffle about cutting CO2 by more direct routing of flights. He also hopes biofuels will make a difference in future, despite this being unlikely to provide more than a tiny % of fuel. Grayling makes it clear he has no intention of letting aviation CO2 get in the way of a 3rd Heathrow runway.
The Environmental Audit Committee, chaired by Mary Creagh, heard oral evidence from Chris Grayling, and Caroline Low (Dft) on 30th November.
“The Airports Commission Report: Carbon Emissions, Air Quality and Noise, HC 840 Wednesday 30 November 2016
Members present: Mary Creagh (Chair); Peter Aldous; Caroline Ansell; Glyn Davies; Caroline Lucas; Mr Gavin Shuker.
Questions 1 – 133 Witnesses: Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport, and Caroline Low, Director of Airport Capacity, Department for Transport.
The questioning covered several environmental issues. Below are the sections dealing with questions and answers on climate.
Q49 Caroline Lucas: In your response to the Committee, and indeed in the statement to the House, you said that Heathrow can be delivered within the UK’s carbon obligations, but the figures in the Government’s business case assume that aviation will emit 15% more CO2 than the amounts allowed for in the carbon budgets by 2050. I wonder how you reconcile those statements.
Chris Grayling: There are two different ways that this could happen. It is worth saying of course that international aviation is not within the current climate change legislation. Notwithstanding that, we and the international community are taking this issue very seriously, hence you will be aware of the recent ICAO agreement in Montreal. We believe that a number of different factors will have a material impact on the level of emissions from this sector.
One of those is change in technology, with the emergence of a new generation of much more fuel-efficient aircraft that will emit less carbon than has been the case in the past; a second is the development of biofuels, and we yesterday published a consultation on how we intend to incentivise the increased use of biofuels in aviation in this country. Of course many airlines are doing this already. Virgin Atlantic, for example, is already well advanced in the development of biofuels technology for use in their planes, so that is the second factor.
Of course the third element, which was at the heart of the ICAO agreement, is the international plan for offsetting in this sector. I am very confident that with the package that is available we will achieve what the Airports Commission said we would be able to achieve, which is to deliver the expansion of airport capacity in the south-east without breaching the carbon goals that we have. Is there anything else to add to that, Caroline?
Caroline Low: Just to pick up on that, there has been some press about this and comments from the Committee on Climate Change. The further work that was published alongside the decision was supplementary to all of the work that the Commission did, and we absolutely accept the recommendations and the scenarios that they ran in relation to carbon. As you know, there was a carbon cap and a carbon traded scenario, which probably represent extremes. In our further sensitivities we ran those off the carbon traded scenario, but that was not to imply that that is the scenario that we expect to be in. We still expect to be somewhere in the middle, depending on the range of policy approaches taken. In summary, we stand by the work that the Commission did on carbon, which was accepted by the CCC.
Q50 Caroline Lucas: I will come back to some of these issues around ICAO and biofuels in a moment, but biofuels are only likely to be able to be substituting a very small proportion of fossil fuels.
Chris Grayling: Yes, it is a factor. It is not a transformative—
Caroline Lucas: It is a very small factor. I just wanted to come back to the issue of offsetting, because in the letter from the Committee on Climate Change to Greg Clark, the Secretary of State, they make very clear that they do not think that carbon offsetting should be factored into the targets that you are aiming for. Not least, they say that because, “The Committee has consistently said the Government should not plan to use credits to meet the 2050 target because these credits may not be available in the future and they may not be cheap”. Relying on offsetting when that is flying in the face of what the Committee on Climate Change is recommending seems unwise.
Chris Grayling: We have not taken a policy decision yet on whether we will go for a hard target or whether we will include offsetting. My point was that of the options available to us for the future, that is one of them.
Q51 Caroline Lucas: The trouble is that is one of them, but it is one that the Committee on Climate Change is recommending you do not use. Another option presumably, if you went more towards the carbon cap scenario, would be that you would be expecting Herculean cuts in emissions from other sectors in order to allow the aviation industry to continue to grow, and already the Committee on Climate Change is saying that the expectations of the other sectors cutting by 85% or more is at the upper end of what is likely to be possible. It seems to me that if you are not going to go down the traded side, then you are going to be expecting even greater emission cuts in sectors that are already under massive pressure. How realistic is that?
Chris Grayling: I am not ruling out the trading side. We have just signed up to the ICAO agreement, which is a big international agreement as to how most of the leading countries in the world are going to deliver the objectives in international aviation.
Q52 Caroline Lucas: It is voluntary?
Chris Grayling: It is voluntary, but none the less, the planned participation is very substantial. It is an option for us for the future, which we believe is one part of the policy decision we have to take.
Q53 Caroline Lucas: The trouble with your answer, with respect, is that we have looked at what would happen if you went down the carbon traded route and we have established the fact that the Committee on Climate Change is recommending you do not do that, for very practical reasons. We have now looked at the issue of whether or not you will be expecting other sectors to make greater cuts in order to allow aviation to expand, and it appears that, because you will not put down your flag on what you are going to do, you are able to evade the downsides and the flaws in either of those strategies and—
Chris Grayling: You have to bear in mind how closely the Committee on Climate Change worked with the Airports Commission. The Airports Commission conclusion has taken into account all the factors available to them and taken into account the Committee on Climate Change’s modelling that we could deliver a third runway at Heathrow or a second runway at Gatwick within our overall carbon goals. That work was done very closely between the two organisations, so this isn’t something that we, as a Government, are suddenly plucking out of the air. We are simply accepting a recommendation from our independent Commission, which worked very closely with the Climate Change Committee before it arrived at that conclusion or recommendation.
Q54 Caroline Lucas: But your business case is assuming that aviation will emit 15% more CO2 than the amounts allowed for in the carbon budgets by 2050. You have a letter from the Committee on Climate Change, which is saying that they think you might have misunderstood them and they would like to point out, for example, that they have limited confidence about the options for other sectors to go beyond cuts of 85%, which are already factored into your calculations. I will just put it to you that you are boosting the amount that you think that aviation is going to be allowed to emit in the face of the evidence.
Chris Grayling: I don’t think that is right. The Airports Commission worked very closely with the Committee on Climate Change. It reached the conclusion on the basis of that joint work.
Caroline Low: Just to be clear, the carbon traded scenario is not the business case. You have to look at all of the scenarios that we put out. Going forward, there is general agreement that dealing with this at the international level is the right thing. That is why we were waiting to see where we got to in Montreal before doing further detailed analysis and putting forward policy proposals on this. We will be taking that work forward now. We will be putting out discussion papers on carbon strategy for aviation next year.
Caroline Lucas: Can I ask one further follow-up?
Chris Grayling: Of course.
Q55 Caroline Lucas: On the issue of whether or not there might be an expectation on other sectors to decarbonise even more dramatically than is currently anticipated, have you had any discussions with Ministers from other Departments and industries about the feasibility of that assumption?
Chris Grayling: Not at the moment. We have a number of cross-Government forums where we discuss environmental issues, but my belief is that we will in due course take a policy decision that will provide the right balance between the different tools and options available to us.
Q56 Chair: Just on the carbon trading scenario, you are saying, “There are two different types of models here. One is a carbon traded assumption, one is a carbon capped assumption, but we are not really looking at either of those. There is some sort of Goldilocks option right in the middle”. Is that correct?
Caroline Low: The Commission also ran a carbon sensitivity model, so the carbon capped and carbon traded models were effectively artificial modelled scenarios run off a carbon price rather than actual policies. The carbon sensitivity model, which sits somewhere in the middle and allows for about 80% growth, starts to bring in looking at the most efficient policies to reduce carbon, the sort of things we have talked about: fuel efficiency and aircraft operational policies, and offsetting. Having understood now where we will get to from ICAO, we can take forward and put forward a range of policy measures. Perhaps you are right to call it a Goldilocks in-between, but we will be putting the flesh on the bones of that going forward.
Q57 Chair: The Airports Commission modelled carbon prices of between £200 a tonne and £380 a tonne in 2050. That stands in sharp contrast to €11 a tonne, which is what it was under the EU trading scheme. Where do you think carbon prices will be in 2050, and what will that add to the price of a flight?
Chris Grayling: The answer is we don’t know. The Airports Commission has taken some fairly prudent assessments on this. If we find ourselves in the year 2050 where technology has not moved as fast as we expected, where other factors come into play, inevitably that will have an impact on the cost of flying. If you look at how fast aerospace technology is changing at the moment—this is the point we have not touched on to enough of a degree so far—most of the airlines will now say that the new generation of aircraft is dramatically reducing air fuel costs, dramatically reducing the level of fuel consumption, and by definition therefore also dramatically reducing carbon emissions. I fully expect to see over the next 10 or 20 years quite substantial changes to the nature of the fleets on the tarmac.
If you just go to Heathrow now you will see a massive move by most of the big airlines into new aircraft, 787s particularly, with an expectation that the A350 will do the same.These are significantly reducing carbon levels on the existing paradigm. Caroline Lucas is right that the biofuels element is not transformational, but a contribution of biofuels of percentage points to the level of emissions clearly makes a difference as well. This is a moving feast—
Q58 Chair: But you are about to publish your aviation emission strategy next year, aren’t you?
Chris Grayling: Yes.
Q59 Caroline Lucas: How can we be confident that this expansion can be delivered within our climate obligations when the strategy to achieve this has not yet been written by you? You are sort of setting some of it out, but it is kind of like, “Trust me, I’m—”
Chris Grayling: It is not. We have a well cast independent Airports Commission, in consultation with the Committee on Climate Change, which has said to the Government, “You can achieve this expansion within your carbon targets”. That is what we are basing ourselves on. This is not, “Let’s pluck something out of the air and go for it”. We have gone through a process of getting serious independent analysis done, which has reached the conclusion on the issues of air quality and of carbon emissions that we can achieve our objectives within the limits that are currently set.
Of course in the case of carbon emissions, there is no law of the land that requires us to meet any particular target. We are doing what we believe is right. We are partners in the ICAO agreement. We are looking to a strategy that delivers what we need to achieve, as the Airports Commission said we could, within carbon targets that are not found in UK statute, but are things that we are pursuing nonetheless.
Q60 Chair: We are doing it because we want to, rather than because we are mandated by climate change—
Chris Grayling: It is a matter of fact that international aviation is not in the legislation. That is not stopping us pursuing a sensible strategy on the carbon emissions from aviation.
Q61 Chair: When can we see the aviation emissions strategy? When will that be published?
Chris Grayling: All the documentation on that expansion will be published in the new year and will obviously be available for scrutiny through next year.
Q62 Chair: Simultaneously?
Caroline Low: The work on wider aviation strategy will be coming out later next year.
Q63 Chair: We are going to have the national planning statement on the future of this strategic national infrastructure airport coming out before we have an emissions aviation strategy published?
Caroline Low: The NPS that we will be consulting on we will be based on the work, as the Secretary of State said, done by the Airports Commission in consultation with the CCC. The question then is, what next for the industry? That is what we will be consulting on later next year.
Q64 Chair: Don’t they go hand in hand?
Chris Grayling: No, because they are not simply about Heathrow. There is a broader national strategy on aviation as well.
Q65 Chair: But you are going to expand demand and capacity at one airport, and you are going to do that policy statement before you have put out a strategy on what we are going to do on aviation emissions. Doesn’t that seem like putting the cart before the horse?
Chris Grayling: No, because what we have done is we have taken proper independent advice on can we deliver the expansion of airport capacity in the south-east and keep that within our emissions targets, given the factors that we have discussed this afternoon, and the answer was yes.
Q66 Chair: When will the carbon reduction plan be published? Will that be coming out after the national policy statement on Heathrow as well?
Chris Grayling: The work that is going to be published in the national policy statement will be based on what has been done by the Airports Commission in consultation with the Committee on Climate Change.
Q67 Chair: When is the carbon reduction plan coming out—after the end of the year?
Chris Grayling: That is right.
Caroline Low: Yes. It is not a carbon reduction plan. It will be a discussion paper around carbon. We will be putting out a number of papers around wider aviation strategy to update the aviation policy framework, which is the current overarching document. Having taken the decision on south-east capacity, we then need to look more broadly at aviation strategy and update it in line with having taken that decision. One of the issues we need to look at is carbon. At the moment we are doing the analysis following the ICAO decision. I am not sure exactly when that will be complete, but I expect it to be spring/summer next year.
Chris Grayling: Some of the issues that you describe will lie somewhere in the future. If you look at what the Airports Commission recommended, it said that we would need extra capacity by 2030 and that by 2030 we could deliver that capacity and keep within carbon goals. It said that we might subsequently, by 2050, need a further runway in the south-east, but that could only happen depending on where we are with carbon emissions at the time, so there is a clear process going forward. As far as I am concerned, the work that has been done by the Airports Commission, in consultation with the Committee on Climate Change, is the work upon which this expansion should be based. The question is about where the direction of travel goes beyond this for the future of the aviation sector in the United Kingdom. It has to take into account where we get to at the end of the Heathrow expansion process or at the end of the national policy statement process.
Q68 Chair: But there is a gap between the various things that are in play now and where we need to get to in order for Heathrow to expand and for us to meet our—
Chris Grayling: No. It is important to challenge that. I don’t accept that. What we have is a very detailed piece of independently carried out work that says, “You can expand Heathrow based on the existing situation. Based on your overall carbon goals, this is something that can be delivered”. That work was carried out by the Commission in consultation with the Committee on Climate Change. I am satisfied that that gives us the basis to move forward. There isn’t going to be some radical additional new piece of work that lies on top of what the Airports Commission has done that is a whole new strategy. The Airports Commission has done that work for us. The further work we need to do for the future is based on the rest of the aviation sector, over and above and beyond what happens at Heathrow.
Q69 Caroline Lucas: There is just one thing on that, because you said you would be basing the way forward on this close collaboration between the Committee on Climate Change and your Department. But I would come back to the letter from the Committee on Climate Change of 22 November, which clearly says that aviation emissions should be at the same level in 2050 as they were in 2005, without the use of international credits. Can you rule out now that you will be using international credits if you are going to be in line with what the CCC says?
Chris Grayling: We have not reached a decision yet on whether to do that or not. We have just been—
Q70 Caroline Lucas: But you cannot say on the one hand that what you are doing is being sanctioned and agreed to by the Committee on Climate Change if in the next breath you are saying, “One of the things we did—”
Chris Grayling: Yes, I can, because what you are doing is conflating two separate issues. The one issue is the work done by the Airports Commission and the Committee on Climate Change on the expansion of Heathrow—can that be delivered? Indeed. Not just expansion of Heathrow, but the additional runway in the south-east—can that be done within climate targets? The answer to that was yes. What you are quoting is them saying, “But we do not think you should use credits”. That is a different question.
Caroline Lucas: Discuss. To my mind, they seem to be pretty—
Chris Grayling: I disagree. There is a much broader issue. This is not just about Heathrow Airport for the next 30 years. It is about aviation across the United Kingdom and aviation policy across the United Kingdom. That is a different question from whether we can expand one airport with an additional runway. They are saying they don’t think we should use credits. That is a policy debate that we will have to have and we will have to reach. That is a different question from whether we can, within those limits, expand one airport.
Caroline Lucas: That begs a whole load of other questions.
Q71 Chair: It is keeping going, isn’t it? If I can just finish off, your aviation strategy is coming out after the national planning statement on Heathrow, and you said it will be sort of the middle of next year, alongside the carbon reduction plan. I am asking you about the cross-governmental—
Chris Grayling: The cross-Government—
Caroline Low: There is a phased carbon reduction strategy, which is due out early next year. As I understand it, that is not about aviation, because as we have been discussing, aviation is not included in those targets at the moment.
Q72 Chair: You are doing a carbon reduction plan as well, are you?
Caroline Low: We will be putting out, as part of our discussion of future aviation policy, some discussion papers around carbon.
Chris Grayling: If I can give you an example of where that comes into play, one part of what we are going to be producing is a future strategy for the use of airspace. Quite clearly, if we can use new technology to reduce stacking, that reduces fuel consumption and reduces carbon emissions, so it is not about, “Here is a carbon reduction strategy”. It is a strategy to improve the performance of aviation generally, reduce costs, reduce fuel use and reduce emissions.
Q73 Chair: Although you can argue that we already have very efficient aviation use in this country compared with other countries—
Chris Grayling: I would argue that actually we don’t.
Chair: Okay. We will have to take that outside, but—
Chris Grayling: Okay, but let me get this in very quickly, because it is quite important. A very practical example of that: you can today follow an aircraft all the way from its point of origin to its point of destination and talk to it on the way. In the past, an air traffic controller only got into contact with a plane in the last stages of its flight. If a plane is flying the Atlantic and it is clear to air traffic control when it arrives over the south-east, and it is going to spend half an hour flying in circles over Cobham, then saying to that plane in advance, “Slow down, use less fuel, don’t stack” becomes a real option in airspace management terms. That is the kind of improvement that we are going to need for the future. That simply does not happen now. If you are in the south-west of London or the north-west of London, you are well used to planes flying in circles over you overhead for long periods of time, completely unnecessarily. If we can manage it so that does not happen, that is a material benefit to carbon emissions.
Q74 Chair: Will you be examining non-CO2 emissions as part of that aviation strategy?
Chris Grayling: There is an extensive debate about the non-CO2 emissions. Our view is that if we reduce fuel consumption—which is happening in a variety of different ways, one of which I have just described, and technology is another—then we will see those emissions reduce as well. But there is no clear scientific basis to look at other emissions and put those at the heart of our strategy.
Q75 Chair: Are demand-side measures something that you are examining as part of the aviation strategy?
Chris Grayling: If you are talking about, for example, increasing air passenger duty, they have happened in recent years, but that is very much a matter for the Treasury.
Q76 Chair: The Committee on Climate Change has said passenger demand growth cannot realistically exceed a 60% increase between 2005 and 2050 to be consistent with carbon budgets.
Chris Grayling: Yes.
Caroline Low: What we will be putting out as part of the carbon discussion next year is an updated marginal abatement cost curve, which looks at all of the policies that you can use and the relative efficiency of different policies to manage carbon. One of them is demand management. It is relatively inefficient compared to some of the other policies, but there is a 2011 analysis on that that we will be updating for part of this work.
Chris Grayling: It also depends on the technology for the future. They don’t know; we don’t know. There have been over the past 35 years some pretty dramatic changes in aviation technology. Going back 35 years, fly-by-wire was only just starting. The kind of technology you are now seeing in the Dreamliner, the A350, the new 737s were nowhere in sight at that point. It is a bold assumption to assume that there is no possibility for that to happen, but our view is that what we are doing is completely consistent with what the Committee on Climate Change has described.
Chair: Thank you. We have been joined by colleagues. Welcome to Gavin Shuker. I do not know if you have any interests you wish to declare.
Mr Gavin Shuker: No, I don’t.
Chair: Excellent, and Peter Aldous. Caroline, you had a—
Q77 Caroline Lucas: A couple of follow-ups. I want to go back to the non-CO2 emissions, because they are significant. This is an issue I worked on in the European Parliament when we were doing aviation in the EU ETS proposal, and although you are right to say that there isn’t an absolutely defined figure everyone agrees to, everyone agrees that there are significant non-CO2 impacts—in other words, when you have contrails—when you have NOx emissions at altitude. It seems to me just to say, “Because we don’t know the exact figure we are just not going to take them into account at all” is rather reckless. Putting a modest figure on it, it might be that the total impact is around double the impact of CO2alone, so can you say what kind of research is going on in your Department or elsewhere to get a handle on it? Because the idea that, “We don’t entirely know, therefore we are not going to follow it up” seems to be completely in contradiction to the precautionary principle.
Chris Grayling: There is no international evidence at the moment, no firm international scientific base for this.
Q78 Caroline Lucas: Yes, there is. There are huge amounts of evidence of the non-CO2 impact of aviation. We don’t know the exact calculation, but it is not in question that there is a—
Chris Grayling: But there is no scientific basis for us to take specific policy decisions, because we don’t have, as you say, the very specific data on which to base such decisions. My view on this is that if a central part of our goal is to reduce fuel consumption—and that is going to come through technology, better airspace management, as we described earlier—then that has the same beneficial effects on non-CO2 emissions as it does on CO2 emissions.
Q79 Caroline Lucas: That is true, but if the impact of aviation emissions could well be double what you are working on, then the impact of all of your modelling is in question, and given that that is a debate that is being had in many of the big organisations now, in ICAO and elsewhere, I want to know in what way you are at least anticipating that this might need to be factored in at some point.
Chris Grayling: The phrase “could well be” is not something that we yet have sufficient evidence to adapt policy on.
Q80 Caroline Lucas: The precautionary principle? There is a lot of evidence that there is a significant impact and we can—
Chris Grayling: What is that impact?
Caroline Lucas: Somewhere between 1.3 and 1.9, from my recollection. I will stand corrected. By the way, if you did it by 0.5, I would be happy enough, but I want you to acknowledge that there is an impact that could well be escalated as we find out more.
Chris Grayling: If evidence emerges, we will have to respond to it.
Q81 Caroline Lucas: I look forward to that. Can I move on quickly to the ICAO issue, and then we will move on? Just on ICAO, we were mentioning it earlier, but the scale of its ambition falls short in key ways of the UK’s domestic policy. What will the Government be doing to strengthen that ICAO agreement and to bridge the gap?
Chris Grayling: I think it is quite a success point to have reached the ICAO agreement, to be honest. As Caroline said earlier, this is something we believe has to be addressed on an international basis. This is not something where the UK acting alone unilaterally can make a significant difference. It has to be done on an international basis. The ICAO agreement is a significant step forward, and is a significant step further forward than appeared might be the case in the run-up to the reaching of that agreement.
Q82 Caroline Lucas: You have no plans at this point to be looking to strengthen it.
Caroline Low: There are reopeners in the agreement, which we would seek to build on, but I think the first thing is to take the agreement we have, to work through the detail, which is what we are doing now, and to make sure what we have is properly implemented. We can then look to build on that agreement going forward.
Q83 Caroline Lucas: One final question on biofuels, as we mentioned those earlier. Will the Government be addressing the full lifecycle emissions of biofuels, including land use change, when you are developing policy in that area?
Chris Grayling: Yes. This is something I feel quite strongly about. There is a role for biofuels and there is a particular role for biofuels that reprocess waste products. I am not comfortable with a strategy that simply causes people to grow palm oil plantations around the world and to get rid of rainforest, for example, to make way for them. I am seeking to be very cautious across the Department’s activities—and this is not just in the area of aviation—to make sure that we do not promote a policy that encourages detrimental land use change, as opposed to using materials where there is a positive benefit in creating biofuels. I will be very watchful of that in my time as Secretary of State.
Q84 Caroline Lucas: I have one very last one—sorry—going back to ICAO. ICAO, which I didn’t mention earlier, does not reduce aviation emissions, of course. It simply commits to offsetting them. Given there is no guarantee that there will be capacity in world carbon markets to achieve that, isn’t it risky to be putting a lot of emphasis on assuming that that ICAO agreement is going to dig you out of a hole?
Chris Grayling: I am not assuming it is going to dig us out of a hole, but it seems to me to be the best way that we have of getting an international focus on the issue, getting countries working together on the issue and getting countries taking action to offset the issue. With the best will in the world, saying to countries around the world that are in a growth spurt, “You have to stop expanding aviation” is not going to get us very far, so I think the—
Q85 Caroline Lucas: No, but they might be saying that perhaps we need to reduce aviation in order to allow them equitably to increase it. I will leave that point with you. I am not expecting a response.
Chris Grayling: I think our aviation market is increasingly dwarfed by others.
Chair: Gavin, you had a very quick follow-up.
Q86 Mr Gavin Shuker: Yes. In a bid to atone for the fact that I have joined the session slightly late, I will only ask questions on one topic, which is this: given that we have a legally binding carbon budget, do you think that aviation gets enough of that budget with the size of the pie that we currently have?
Chris Grayling: Of course the issue is that international aviation is not contained within the current legal limits for carbon emissions. It has always been expressly treated as an international matter. We could perfectly well say, “Nothing to do with this. We will leave aviation to its own devices”. We don’t do that. We are working quite carefully to make sure that aviation policy is consistent with our overall goals. But in terms of legal obligation, there isn’t the same legal obligation that exists in other sectors.
Q87 Mr Gavin Shuker: Just briefly as a follow-up, do you feel there are other sectors of the economy where—through greater use of energy efficiency, for example—you might be able to offset some of the impact of what you are proposing, which is to expand the great proportion, over time, of carbon that is being used by UK passengers in aviation?
Chris Grayling: If you take one example we were talking about earlier, I support the growth of electric vehicles and I would like to see dramatic growth in electric vehicles around the world. That offers us the opportunity to deliver a step change reduction in the generation of carbon from one part of the transport system, but I don’t think that is a satisfactory alternative to looking to use new technology in the aviation sector to reduce fuel consumption as well. It is a virtuous circle, in that we reduce fuel consumption, we reduce cost, we reduce the price for passengers, but at the same time we reduce carbon emissions. My view is that the dramatic transformation of aircraft technology and aero engine technology that is currently taking place is a real, positive benefit that makes the future of international aviation much more sustainable than would otherwise be the case.
Q125 Chair: There is a trade-off though, isn’t there, on the biofuels debate between carbon savings and the noise issue? How are you going to balance those competing priorities? You are doing a biofuels competition. What is more important?
Chris Grayling: There are two things happening in parallel at the moment. We are looking to encourage innovation in the biofuels arena. I am particularly concerned that we do this around sustainable sources of material for biofuels. At the same time you have airlines that are very actively engaged in trying to develop biofuels. There is a trade-off, but I think trade-offs get rapidly overtaken by technological development. I would be very surprised if the next generation of biofuels aren’t smoother running, better suited to what we have discussed. This is something that is not going to happen overnight. It is a process over time, but it is a process over time at a time when aircraft noise is coming down sharply as well. I don’t think that will be a major issue for us.
Q126 Chair: Are you planning on running a biofuels competition for aviation?
Chris Grayling: We are currently doing a competition for biofuels development, not specifically tied absolutely to aviation, but with aviation in mind.
Q127 Chair: Great. If I can take you back to the carbon issue and ICAO as a final set of questions, the ICAO agreement does not reduce aviation emissions, it commits to offsetting them. There is no guarantee that there will be capacity in world carbon markets to achieve this, is there?
Chris Grayling: I would argue that there is, in the sense that the way you offset is either through a reduction elsewhere or through the replanting of an area of land that has lost its foliage over the years. The sad thing is, this planet has no shortage of areas that were once green and are no longer so. One of the things that we will all need to do for the future is to bring back into agriculture or forestry—or indeed simply wild-planted areas—areas that are now arid.
Q128 Chair: The agreement’s credibility obviously depends on large emitters living up to their voluntary commitment to participate fully in the programme from 2021. What will UK aviation be doing differently after 2021?
Chris Grayling: I expect, if we are moving ahead with this, that UK aviation will be funding offsetting projects.
Q129 Chair: Where? In this country or developing countries? What mechanisms?
Chris Grayling: To be discussed. That is certainly market-based, to see who comes up with the most innovative plans that make the biggest difference. We fortunately do not have too many arid areas in this country, so I suspect it will be global. A lot of the offsetting projects that exist at the moment are global. As to the behaviour of other countries, we cannot guarantee that, but we can seek to influence them.
Q130 Chair: I can perhaps suggest some recommended reading. We did an excellent report on soil health, which might change your mind on arid areas in this country, so it is worth having a look.
Chris Grayling: I will look at that. I have no prejudgment about where the money should be spent. I suspect that what we will see as the ICAO agreement takes shape is a strengthening of the opportunities for smart environmental projects to offset the impacts of the emissions covered by the agreement.
Q131 Chair: What analysis have you made of the incoming President-elect’s proposals around this and encouraging the new US administration to continue its commitments?
Chris Grayling: I haven’t yet, but I already made the acquaintance last summer—before either of us held our current posts—of the new US Secretary of Transportation. I shall have to meet her before too long and I am sure we will be discussing a whole range of things, including the ICAO agreement.
Q132 Chair: Finally, have carbon savings from the Single European Sky been factored into the calculations for the emissions impact of the Heathrow expansion?
Chris Grayling: We have not yet taken decisions about what we will do on the Single European Sky. Clearly that is something that will be part of the decision-making post the Brexit vote and as we move towards the negotiations, so I can’t give you a comment on that today, I am afraid.
Q133 Chair: Does it not have a material impact on the Heathrow expansion?
Chris Grayling: We will need to take into account a number of factors before deciding what our strategy is around European aviation, the Single European Sky, IATA and the rest. That work is yet to be completed.
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