Airports National Policy Statement
Dear Secretary of State,
The UK has a legally binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Climate Change Act. The Government has also committed, through the Paris Agreement, to limit the rise in global temperature to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.
We were surprised that your statement to the House of Commons on the National Policy Statement on 5 June 2018 (1) made no mention of either of these commitments. It is essential that aviation’s place in the overall strategy for UK emissions reduction is considered and planned fully by your Department.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) does not have a view on the location of airport capacity, as long as total UK aviation emissions are compatible with meeting the 2050 climate objectives.
In its projections, the Committee has made a relatively generous provision for aviation emissions compared to other sectors:
• Our analysis has illustrated how an 80% economy-wide reduction in emissions could be achieved with aviation emissions at 2005 levels in 2050. Relative to 1990 levels this is a doubling of emissions, and an increase in its share of total emissions from 2% to around 25%. We estimate that this would allow for around 60% growth in aviation demand, dependent on the delivery of technological and operational improvements and some use of sustainable biofuels.
• Aviation emissions at 2005 levels in 2050 means other sectors must reduce emissions by more than 80%, and in many cases will likely need to reach zero.
• Higher levels of aviation emissions in 2050 must not be planned for, since this would place an unreasonably large burden on other sectors.
The Airports Commission also incorporated the CCC’s advice on aviation, concluding that ‘any change to [the] UK’s aviation capacity would have to take place in the context of global climate change, and the UK’s policy obligations in this area’. (2)
We look forward to the Department’s new Aviation Strategy in 2019, which we expect will set out a plan for keeping UK aviation emissions at or below 2005 levels by 2050. To inform your work we are planning to provide further advice in spring 2019.
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these matters more fully.
Lord Deben, Chairman, Committee on Climate Change
Baroness Brown of Cambridge Deputy Chair, Committee on Climate Change
(2).Airports Commission (2015) Final Report, page 65.
UK climate advisers issue Heathrow warning
‘Higher levels of aviation emissions in 2050 must not be planned for’
Zach Boren @zdboren
Carbon emissions from the aviation industry must not rise if the UK is to meet its legally-binding climate change targets, according to the government’s independent climate advisers.
In a letter to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling following his statement on the government’s airport policy, the chair and deputy chair of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) wrote:
“Aviation emissions at 2005 levels in 2050 means other sectors must reduce emissions by more than 80%, and in many cases will likely need to reach zero.
Higher levels of aviation emissions in 2050 must not be planned for, since this would place an unreasonably large burden on other sectors.”
The government’s latest figures foresee aviation emissions rising by 7.3 million tonnes CO2 by 2030 if a third runway is developed at Heathrow airport — equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions from Cyprus.
The Davies Commission report from 2015 that recommended expanding Heathrow instead of Gatwick said a mammoth CO2 price of £330 per tonnes by 2050, in addition to unspecific biofuels wizardry, would be required for the UK to stay within its carbon budget.
It has been calculated that a carbon price at this level would add over £130 to a return trip from London to New York.
CCC writes to Chris Grayling about Airports National Policy Statement – Committee on Climate Change
Cait Hewitt, Deputy Director of the Aviation Environment Federation, said: “The Government’s own forecasts show Heathrow expansion sending UK aviation CO2 emissions well beyond the limit that the CCC recommends.
“There are no measures set out in the NPS to tackle this, and no climate change condition linked to the expansion.”
“The Government has never been able to show how it can square a new runway with the Climate Change Act, even based – as it is – on a target of limiting the risk of 2 degrees of global warming.
“It’s impossible to see how any increase in airport capacity could be compatible with the more ambitious target set by the Paris Agreement.”
In April, climate minister Claire Perry announced that the CCC will review the country’s 2050 targets in light of the new 1.5 degrees warming ambition outlined in the Paris Agreement, but the group has yet to receive official instructions and would not comment as to whether increased airport capacity could be compatible with the net zero goal.
Of course it stands to reason that if Heathrow expansion jeopardises the UK’s existing climate targets, it would make more dramatic carbon cuts even more difficult.
‘All domestic flights will need to end pretty much immediately’
If the UK does put in place a 2050 net-zero emissions target then that could be especially costly for the country’s domestic air routes.
Leo Murray, director of campaigning group Fellow Travelers, explained: “International air travel emissions have a uniquely ambiguous status under UK carbon budgets, in which they are not quite in and not quite out.
This means politicians have a lot of wriggle room to express vague aspirations about global deals to tackle these greenhouse gases.”
Emissions from domestic air travel, by contrast, are very much part of our national inventory and the legal framework for the UK Climate Change Act.”
“And if Britain moves to a net zero 2050 target to honour the Paris Agreement, all domestic flights will need to end pretty much immediately.”