CCC Net Zero Report: Aviation emissions to rise a little bit less fast than now … probably … speculative …
CCC Net Zero Report: We’ll still be flying in 2050, but Government can no longer ignore aviation emissions in its climate policies
The UK should amend its legislation to commit to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the CCC has advised, and this target should include the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions, and be met through domestic action rather than international offset credits. This will require immediate steps from Government, industry and the public. Challenges that have not yet been confronted – such as aviation and shipping emissions – must now be addressed, the committee says.
To reinforce the importance of tackling emissions from all sectors, CCC has also recommended that international aviation emissions should be formally included in carbon budgets at the next available opportunity, beginning with the sixth budget period (2033-37), on which the CCC will advise next year. Currently under the Act, the 5-yearly carbon budgets are adjusted to take account of international aviation emissions but no formal requirement is put on the aviation sector to limit its emissions.
Aviation will be emitting more CO2 than any other sector by 2050, CCC anticipates
The CCC’s Further Ambition scenario, setting out a pathway to net zero GHGs, anticipates that the aviation sector will still be emitting 31MtCO2 in 2050. These emissions would need to be removed from the atmosphere through measures such as ‘direct air capture’ or BECCS, to be paid for by the aviation industry. While significant tree planting is required for emissions removal, the aviation sector should not rely on afforestation to remove its emissions, cautions CCC, given the limited scope that this offers for long term emissions removals at the required scale.
The Government currently predicts aviation emissions of over 40 Mt by 2050. Limiting them to 31 Mt will require a combination of demand constraint to limit passenger numbers to no more than a 60% increase on 2005 levels (for example through ‘policies to manage the use of airport capacity’), biofuels contributing 10% of the sector’s fuel needs, and more efficient aircraft that will improve the overall efficiency of the fleet by around 1.4% per annum for the next few decades, CCC advises. These figures are – in our view – very much at the speculative end of government and industry forecasts for the potential for technological improvements.
AEF’s Deputy Director Cait Hewitt, said
“The CCC’s recommendations set out a world-leading pathway for the UK to stop contributing to climate change in the future. It’s essential that Government recognises the need for commitments that cover all sectors, including aviation, and that don’t rely on international offsets.
“Reducing aviation emissions to 31MtCO2 by 2050, 25% less than the level currently predicted by the Department for Transport even after accounting for more sustainable fuels and likely technological improvements, will be extremely challenging. While technological improvements will be vital, we also need to think seriously about how to manage growth in the future, starting with saying no to unsustainable airport expansions.”
The Government’s plans for expansion at Heathrow, already the UK’s largest single source of carbon emissions, look increasingly difficult to justify. While yesterday’s court judgement rejected the climate challenges to the Government’s plans, the court made clear that an eventual decision on Heathrow’s third runway (expected around 2022) will need to be made in relation to the climate legislation and policy in force at the time. Given the growing public and political sense of a climate emergency, that legislation is very likely to put increasing pressure on the aviation sector.
Net Zero The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming
Committee on Climate Change
2nd May 2019
The full Committee on Climate Change report is at
Other documents, data etc are at
Statement from the No 3rd Runway Coalition
2 May 2019
Responding to the Net Zero report by the Committee on Climate Change, Paul McGuinness (Chair, No 3rd Runway Coalition), said:
“It’s notable that the Committee on Climate Change has gone out of its way to state that aviation must contribute to its new target of net-zero emissions by 2050 – no doubt mindful that aviation has doubled its emissions since 1990, despite a 40% fall across the whole economy”.
“This new target will almost certainly mean that Heathrow, already the largest single source of carbon emissions in the UK, will be unable to expand – unless government punitively offsets it with ham-fisted restrictions on regional economic activity and, in the process, surrenders any hope of creating a fairer, more balanced economy”.
For more information, contact Rob Barnstone, 07806 947050 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Some extracts from the report, dealing with aviation:
Challenges that have not yet been confronted must now be addressed by government. Industry must be largely decarbonised, heavy goods vehicles must also switch to low-carbon fuel sources, emissions from international aviationand shipping cannot be ignored, and a fifth of our agricultural land must shift to alternative uses that support emissions reduction: afforestation, biomass production and peatland restoration. Where there are remaining emissions these must be fully offset by removing CO₂ from the atmosphere and permanently sequestering it, for example by using sustainable bioenergy in combination with CCS.
• The UK should legislate as soon as possible to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The target can be legislated as a 100% reduction in greenhouse gases (GHGs) from 1990 and should cover all sectors of the economy, including international aviationand shipping.
• The aim should be to meet the target through UK domestic effort, without relying on international carbon units (or ‘credits’).
Setting and pursuing a UK net-zero GHG target for 2050 will confirm the UK as a leader among the developed countries on climate action. It demonstrates important principles of including emissions from all greenhouse gases and all sources (i.e. including international aviation and shipping), not relying on international offsetting and targeting ‘highest possible ambition’. Crucially it would be supported by the strong statutory emissions framework of the Climate Change Act.
Taken together, these measures would reduce UK emissions by 95-96% from 1990 to 2050. Tackling the remaining 4-5% would require some use of options that currently appear more speculative. That could involve greater shifts in diet and land use alongside more limited aviation demand growth, a large contribution from emerging technologies to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere (e.g. ‘direct air capture’), or successful development of a major supply of carbonneutral synthetic fuels (e.g. produced from algae or renewable power).
Aviation, agriculture and land must play their part. Updated evidence for aviationpoints to greater potential to reduce emissions, although we still expect the sector to emit more than any other in 2050. Our 80% scenarios did not assume any diet change, or major land use changes on the freed-up land, but these are both needed for a net-zero target.
The annual costs of removing emissions from the atmosphere are potentially large in our scenarios (e.g. of the order of £10 billion in 2050, possibly as high as £20 billion). These could be paid by industries, like aviation, that have not reduced their own emissions to zero. That would imply increasing costs (e.g. for flights) from 2035, as emission removals scale up in our scenarios.
In setting a net-zero target, these actions must be supplemented by stronger approaches to policy for industry, land use, HGVs, aviation and shipping, and GHG removals.
• Aviation and shipping. ICAO and IMO, the international agencies for aviation and shipping, have adopted targets to tackle emissions. The scenarios in this report go beyond those targets, suggesting increased ambition and stronger levers will be required in the long run. We will write to the Government later this year on its approach to aviation, building on the advice in this report.
GHG removals. The Government should expand support for early-stage research across the range of greenhouse gas (GHG) removal options, including trials and demonstration projects. It should also signal the longer-term market, which is clearly needed to meet a net-zero target, by developing the governance rules and market mechanisms to pay for emissions removals. Aviationstands out as an obvious sector that could require removals to offset its emissions – either through CORSIA (the international aviation industry’s planned trading scheme), the EU ETS or unilaterally the UK could support a net-zero target for aviation, requiring that all emissions are offset by removals.
[On the UK current target of 80% cut on the 1990 level by 2050]:
The Committee was clear that “any climate strategy should cover all GHGs and all sectors” and that the 80% target was designed on that basis. However, the Climate Change Bill did not include emissions from international aviation and shipping. The Committee therefore recommended that the target be legislated as “at least 80%” to cover the possibility that the sectors covered by the Bill may need to compensate for lower reductions in emissions from international aviation and shipping.
Sometimes ‘net-zero’ is used to refer to CO2 only, and sometimes it refers to all GHGs. There are some merits in each, which we consider in this report. Our recommendation in this report (Chapter 8) is that the UK should set a net-zero target to cover all GHGs and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
We make a detailed assessment in Chapters 5-7 of whether deeper reductions in UK emissions than currently targeted are feasible whilst still delivering on other government objectives and what these would cost. That assessment recognises areas where the UK’s challenge may be harder than that of other countries, for example due to our high population density and relatively high emissions from aviation.
Non-CO2 effects from aviation, which include the emission of nitrogen oxides and contrails, is an additional example of a human effect on the climate system that is also largely short-lived. Finding a way to eliminate these effects (which have an overall warming effect on the climate) before global temperatures peak would contribute to a lower peak warming if done without a compensating increase in CO2 emissions.
Alongside these big emitters the rest of the world is a large and growing part of global emissions. G20 countries make up around 78% of global emissions today but around half are currently not on track to achieve their NDCs. International aviation and shipping, which are excluded from national totals, represent around 2.5% of global GHG emissions and continued growing rapidly over recent years.
In 2017, UK GHG emissions105 per person were estimated to be 7.6 tCO2e/person, compared to a global average of 7.2 tCO2e/person (including emissions from land-use change and international aviationand shipping emissions).
[There is a short section on CORSIA on page 117]
Emissions from aviation can be limited through improvements to fuel efficiency, constraints on demand growth and switching to alternative fuels. However, deep emissions reductions in the aviation sector will be more difficult to achieve compared to other sectors (see Technical Report, Chapter 6). Current trends suggest a large share of emissions from aviation will have to be compensated through reductions elsewhere or through emissions removal from the atmosphere.
Letter from Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC – to Grayling on “Aviation 2050” the DfT’s aviation strategy green paper
In a letter to Chris Grayling, dated 12th February, Lord Deben provides the Committee on Climate Change’s views on the current aviation strategy green paper consultation, Aviation 2050 – The future of UK aviation [the aviation green paper]. He says “You will be aware that my Committee has been asked by Ministers to offer advice on the implications of the Paris Agreement for the UK’s statutory framework, including when ‘net-zero’ emissions can be achieved. A stronger UK target would require more effort from all sectors, including aviation. We intend to provide an updated view on the appropriate long-term ambition for aviation emissions within our advice on the UK’s long-term targets. We will publish our report in spring. Following that, we will write to you directly to set out the implications for the Aviation Strategy.” It also says: “The final white paper should further clarify that this will be met on the basis of actual emissions, rather than by relying on international offset credits.” And “Achieving aviation emissions at or below 2005 levels in 2050 will require contributions from all parts of the aviation sector,… It will also require steps to limit growth in demand. In the absence of a true zero-carbon plane, demand cannot continue to grow unfettered over the long-term.” Read the whole letter.
Government tries to deny its climate responsibility to aim for 1.5C temperature rise, in pushing for 3rd Heathrow runway
The pre-trial hearing for the series of legal challenges against the Government’s decision to expand Heathrow takes place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday 15th January. In legal correspondence between the defendant (Government) and one of the claimants, Plan B Earth, the Government argues that “[Plan B] is wrong to assert that “Government policy is to limit warming to the more stringent standard of 1.5˚C and “well below” 2˚C’. This means that the Government is effectively denying that its own policy is to limit warming to the level that has been agreed internationally is required to avoid climate breakdown. The legal challenge brought by Plan B Earth and Friends of the Earth assert that the Government decision to proceed with Heathrow expansion was unlawful as it failed to appropriately consider climate change. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell described the case as “the iconic battleground against climate change”. The Committee on Climate Change had previously expressed surprise that neither the commitments in the Climate Change Act 2008 nor the Paris Agreement (2015) were referenced in the Government’s Airports National Policy Statement (aka. the plans for a 3rd Heathrow runway).This is a huge inconsistency.