UK government must not use international climate deal as a “smokescreen” with which to force through Heathrow runway
WWF is urging the next UK Government to come up with a credible climate plan for aviation – not just offsetting. They say the UK should not merely depend on the ICAO deal (very weak) as a “smokescreen” to pave the way for adding a 3rd Heathrow runway. The proposed new runway would make Heathrow the UK’s largest single source of greenhouse gases and increase emissions 15% over the limit for aviation advised by the Government’s independent expert advisers, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). The UK government hopes the ICAO deal for a global offsetting scheme agreed in Montreal last October – called CORSIA – would allow it to ignore aviation CO2. But the new WWF report Grounded explains ten problems with this approach. These include a weak target well short of the ambition of the Paris climate agreement and ignoring the non-CO2 pollution from planes, which probably almost doubles their overall global warming impact. The ICAO CORSIA scheme is no panacea for limiting the climate change impacts of airports expansion. The CO2 emissions from use of a new runway cannot just be offset. Instead government Ministers need to come up with a credible plan for limiting UK aviation emissions before making any decisions on allowing an extra (intensively used) runway (largely used for long haul flights). Otherwise, with no plan to deal with the huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions poses a very real threat to the UK’s legally binding climate change commitments.
UK GOVERNMENT MUST NOT USE INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE DEAL AS A “SMOKESCREEN” TO FORCE THROUGH HEATHROW EXPANSION
17th MAY 2017 (WWF press release)
WWF urges the next UK Government to come up with a credible climate plan for aviation – not just offsetting
LONDON: The next UK Government is being urged not to use an international climate deal as a “smokescreen” to pave the way for Heathrow Airport expansion.
The proposed new runway would make Heathrow the UK’s largest single source of greenhouse gases and increase emissions 15% over the limit advised by the Government’s independent expert advisers, the Committee on Climate Change.
It has been suggested that a global offsetting scheme agreed in Montreal last October – called CORSIA – will allow the Government to wash its hands of these emissions, but WWF’s new report Grounded explains ten problems with this approach. These include a weak target well short of the ambition of the Paris climate agreement and ignoring the non-CO2 pollution from aeroplanes, which doubles their overall global warming impact.
Commenting on the report, Paul Ekins OBE, Professor of Resources and Environmental Policy at University College London, said:
“While last year’s global agreement on aviation emissions is a step forward, there are still many unanswered questions about this international offsetting scheme. It is certainly no panacea for limiting the climate change impacts of airports expansion.
“The UK Government cannot wash its hands of Heathrow’s carbon emissions in the hope it can simply offset them. Ministers should come up with a credible plan for limiting UK aviation emissions before making any decisions about airports expansion.”
WWF actively supports the CORSIA negotiations and welcomes the progress made to date – but there are still too many problems and unknowns about CORSIA to expect it to deal effectively with the huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the proposed new runway at Heathrow.
James Beard, Climate Change Specialist at WWF commented:
““Expanding Heathrow without a plan to deal with the huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions poses a very real threat to the UK’s legally binding climate change commitments.
“We are urging all climate change and airports campaigners to respond to the Heathrow consultation with a simple message: no new runway until you have a credible plan for dealing with the environmental impacts here in the UK – not just through offsetting.”
The Government’s consultation on the National Policy Statement for the new runway closes on 25 May.
Notes to the editor
- The full report can be found here: www.wwf.org.uk/Heathrow2017
- The agreement, between the 191 Member States of the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), committed to introduce a Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) from 2020. This means that, in theory, for every tonne of CO2 airlines emit above 2020 levels, they will have to buy a carbon credit representing a tonne of CO2 reduced elsewhere.
3.The report finds 10 problems with relying on offsetting to tackle aviation emissions:
- The ICAO CORSIA has a weak emissions target
- The CORSIA ignores half of aviation’s GHG emissions
- The CORSIA only exists on paper right now
- The CORSIA might allow dodgy offset credits
- The CORSIA might double-count countries’ carbon cuts
- The CORSIA is only seen as a “temporary gap filler”
- ICAO doesn’t want higher carbon prices for aviation
- UK airlines could get an easy ride under the CORSIA
- The Committee on Climate Change opposes offsetting
- Brexit complicates the EU Emissions Trading System too
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The Airports National Policy Statement (NPS), and carbon emissions from aviation
On the issue of carbon emissions and aviation, the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) say MPs should not vote in favour of the NPS in its current form given its failure to adequately address environmental impacts.
It is important to have tough, evidence-based set of environmental requirements for both the Government and the airport. These should cover at least – on environment – noise, air quality and climate change and be written in to primary legislation alongside the NPS. The right conditions on the runway could be very powerful in ensuring the runway only goes ahead if it could genuinely meet them.
The government seems to hope it can use the ICAO proposals as a sufficient means of dealing with the increased carbon emissions generated by the runway. The government is intending to publish a consultation on aviation carbon emissions later this year, but what is proposed under CORSIA falls very far short of what is required. Heathrow appears to have anticipated this, with its attempt to forestall this by its (greenwashing) little paper, called “Heathrow 2.0” which claims to be a “sustainability strategy” for a “carbon neutral runway”. Proposals to help restore peat bogs etc go nowhere near far enough to deal with the airport’s carbon emissions, and should not be given credence.
The DfT civil servants understand quite clearly that if they follow the advice of the the Committee on Climate Change (the Government’s statutory advisers on the issue) and of the Environmental Audit Committee that a limit of 37.5 MtCO2 per year should be imposed on aviation CO2 emissions nationally by 2050 then this will make the third runway effectively impossible.
The court finding in 2010 that the Government of the day had failed to show that a third runway was compatible with the Climate Change Act reinforces this http://wwf.panda.org/?191864/Heathrow-airport-expansion-in-tartters-as-judge-slams-3rd-runway-plans.
WWF has today published a report called “Grounded: Ten reasons why international offsetting won’t solve Heathrow’s climate change problem”.
Both AEF and WWF have been directly involved with the UN discussions on the international offsetting regime for aviation. Both organisations take the view that this scheme cannot provide an effective answer to the Heathrow emissions challenge.
The AEF set out its views on this in October 2016 http://www.aef.org.uk/2016/10/24/new-aef-briefing-why-the-un-carbon-offsetting-deal-for-aviation-cant-close-the-uk-policy-gap/.