Government likely to ignore climate advice by CCC, turning just to carbon trading, to try to push Heathrow runway through
Date added: January 28, 2017
Chris Grayling and the government plan to ignore the assessment of the government’s own independent climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, on how to manage the CO2 emissions from a 3 runway Heathrow. The Environmental Audit Committee wrote to Grayling on 19th December, asking how he planned to square the CO2 emissions and the CCC advice with DfT plans. His response shows there is no way it can be done, and building the 3rd runway means not meeting the UK aviation cap – recommended by the CCC – of 37.5MtCO2 by 2050, meaning about 60% passenger growth above 2005 level. Grayling says ministers “have not taken a view on whether to accept the CCC’s planning assumption,” ie. rejecting the advice. He goes on to note that “a future global carbon market would allow emissions reductions to be made where they are most efficient across the global economy”. Then he says “measures are available” even if the aviation sector grows by more than 60%. This goes against the CCC’s own calculation that these levels of growth would mean “all other sectors will have to prepare for correspondingly higher emissions reductions in 2050.” Grayling hopes carbon trading will cut emissions – but in reality there are no effective carbon trading mechanisms that would do this well enough.
In a letter to the chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), transport secretary Chris Grayling lays out two different approaches to dealing with aviation emissions.
The current planning assumption from the government’s independent climate advisers – the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) – would cap emissions at 2005 levels and limit the growth in the aviation sector to 60% to ensure this cap is maintained.
Another option is to use carbon trading to buy emissions reductions elsewhere, effectively ignoring the emissions cap.
Writing to Mary Creagh, Grayling says ministers “have not taken a view on whether to accept the CCC’s [Committee on Climate Change] planning assumption,” and goes on to note that “a future global carbon market would allow emissions reductions to be made where they are most efficient across the global economy”.
Indeed the minister goes on to suggest that “measures are available” even if the aviation sector grows by more than 60%.
This goes against the CCC’s own calculation that these levels of growth would require further emissions cuts elsewhere.
“The government has said that Heathrow can be delivered within carbon limits,” said Ms Creagh.
“Yet this letter shows it has not yet decided what those international aviation emission limits should be. This implies it is considering rejecting the advice of the independent Committee on Climate Change”.
The issue is particularly sensitive because the government’s central business case for a third runaway at Heathrow assumes emissions which are around 15% higher than the CCC’s planning assumption.
It goes on to say that if they are – as outlined in the Heathrow business case – “then all other sectors will have to prepare for correspondingly higher emissions reductions in 2050.”
In his letter Mr Grayling says achieving higher than 60% demand growth “would not require any other sectors in the UK economy to make reductions.”
Relying on carbon trading to cut emissions has proven controversial because of the absence of effective carbon trading mechanisms and the anticipated global growth in the aviation sector.
“The government is preparing to defy the guidance of the Committee on Climate Change, their own statutory advisers” warned Leo Murray from aviation campaign group Fellow Travellers.
“They know that they can’t expand Heathrow and still keep national emissions within safe limits. So instead they’re planning to move the goalposts to make the massive increase in CO2 from an expanded Heathrow the world’s problem, instead of Britain’s,” he added.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport declined to comment on whether or not they would accept the recommendations from their climate advisers saying:
“We agree with the Airports Commission’s assessment that a new runway at Heathrow can be delivered within our obligations under the Climate Change Act.”
“The Commission considered several ways in which aviation emissions could be tackled. The Government remain open-minded on this issue.”
The Climate Change Act does not oblige the government to reduce aviation emissions.
Ministers consider ignoring recommendations of UK’s official climate change advisers
By Pilita Clark, Environment Correspondent (FT)
The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, has ignited a fresh row about plans for a third Heathrow runway by suggesting ministers might ignore the government’s official climate change advisers’ recommendations on the project.
The Committee on Climate Change, a statutory body that advises governments on meeting the UK’s greenhouse gas targets, has for years said aviation emissions need to stay at 2005 levels until 2050 to meet those goals — advice past governments have accepted.
However, Mr Grayling has revealed in a letter to the Commons environmental audit committee that “the government has not taken a view on whether to accept” this advice.
He also notes that one possible way to deal with aviation emissions is a “carbon-traded scenario” involving a “future global carbon market”.
This appears to contradict the Committee on Climate Change, which maintains aviation pollution should be controlled without the use of international carbon credits, or paying for emissions cuts in other countries.
Mary Creagh, the Labour MP who chairs the environmental audit committee, said the letter raised questions about the proposed new runway at Heathrow, which Mr Grayling said last year could be delivered within carbon limits.
This is yet more evidence that ministers need to go away and do their homework on the environmental impacts of this project
John Sauven, Greenpeace
His letter shows the government has not yet decided what those limits should be, Ms Creagh said. “The government should set out its strategy to limit carbon emissions from international aviation before taking a final decision on Heathrow expansion. Anything else is putting the cart before the horse.”
John Sauven, Greenpeace UK executive director, said Mr Grayling’s letter suggested ministers were prepared to ignore the recommendations of their own statutory advisers “to please the aviation lobby”.
“This is yet more evidence that ministers need to go away and do their homework on the environmental impacts of this project, whether it’s air pollution or carbon emissions,” he said.
Concern about how the new runway can be built without breaching the UK’s carbon targets has been building since Theresa May’s government gave the scheme the go-ahead in October.
Transport department documents published at that time suggested aviation emissions would be 15 per cent higher than 2005 levels.
That prompted the committee’s chair, Conservative peer Lord Deben, to write to Greg Clark, the business and energy secretary, to warn that, if this happened, emissions from other sectors would have to be cut.
Heathrow’s extra runway is proof that travel remains central to our lives
To keep aviation carbon pollution at 2005 levels would already imply an 85 per cent cut in all other parts of the economy.
Lord Deben said his committee therefore had “limited confidence” that enough cuts could be made to make up for a rise in carbon pollution from the new Heathrow runway.
The committee said on Friday that, if the government now thought it was appropriate for aviation pollution to exceed 2005 levels in 2050, ministers should explain how other sectors should be preparing for bigger cuts when they publish an emissions reduction plan due to be published later this year.
A Department for Transport spokesman said the ministry agreed with the Airports Commission’s assessment that a new runway at Heathrow could be delivered without breaching the Climate Change Act, which requires emissions to be cut by at least 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050.
“The commission considered several ways in which aviation emissions could be tackled. The government remain open-minded on this issue,” he said.