Committee on Climate Changes sets out options to meet the UK’s aviation emissions target


Aviation White Paper ‘Dead in the Water’

Comment by AirportWatch on the CCC report
A murder has just taken place.   The victim is the Government’s controversial
2003 Air Transport White Paper.   The murderer is the government-appointed Committee on Climate Change.   The Committee was asked to examine whether the Government’s aviation policy was consistent with its target to cut all CO2 emissions in the UK by 80% by 2050.   It has concluded that, for emissions to remain on target, the number of passengers using the UK’s airports can grow by 60% instead of the 200% the Government was planning for.   Dead: one Air Transport White Paper.
The Committee is very careful not to say where expansion could take place. They say that decision must be taken at a political level.
They say that a third runway at Heathrow, plus a couple of other new runways (possibly at Gatwick and Stansted), would not breach the 60% target but only if there was virtually no growth anywhere else. The message of the report is not that it endorses new runways but that it
has killed off the Government’s programme of aggressive expansion of aviation.
8.12.2009   (Committee on Climate Change press release)
A report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published today says that
aviation policy should be based on the assumption that demand growth between now
and 2050 cannot exceed 60% if the UK is to meet the Government’s target that aviation emissions in 2050 must not exceed 2005 levels.
The report concludes that fuel efficiency and operational improvements are likely
to result in a 30% reduction in carbon emissions per seat km flown and that sustainable
biofuels could account for 10% of aviation fuel use in 2050.
Faster technological improvements are possible, but unless and until they are
achieved, it is not prudent to assume that demand increases of more than 60% are
compatible with the target.
Fuel efficiency improvements will arise from engine and airframe design innovation,
and improved efficiency of Air Traffic Movements and operations.   Increased investment
in aircraft technology research and development might make possible more rapid
progress than currently likely.
The report finds that the use of biofuels in aviation is likely to be technically
and economically viable.
However, there are significant uncertainties over the level of sustainable biofuels
available for use in aviation, for three reasons:
1)    the land area and water resource required given increased food demand resulting
from an increasing world population2)    technological uncertainty over the feasibility of biofuels production that
does not require agricultural land (e.g. algae based )

3)     other demands for biomass feedstocks to produce low-carbon energy (e.g.
biofuels for HGVs, biomass power generation).

 It is therefore prudent to base current policy on the assumption that biofuels
cannot account for more than 10% of the total aviation fuel mix in 2050.
The report finds that on a “business as usual” path, UK air passenger demand
would grow over 200% [above the 2005 level – this is from the 2003 Air Transport White Paper, reviewed
in 2006
] by 2050, reflecting the high income elasticity of demand .This would not be
compatible with meeting the UK’s aviation or wider economy emissions targets.
The report highlights various options for reducing demand:
–   A carbon price rising gradually to £200 / tCO2 by 2050, combined with capacity
constraints as envisaged in the 2003 Aviation White Paper (i.e. with addition
of capacity at Edinburgh, Heathrow and Stansted but at no other airports) could
limit demand growth to 115% by 2050.
–  High-speed rail has the potential to substitute for domestic and short haul
flights to Europe; this could result in a 10% aviation demand reduction in 2050.
– Video-conferencing technology is still at an early stage of development but
by 2050 could substitute for up to 30% of business trips based on current best
business practice.
However, the combination of the anticipated carbon price, modal shift and increased
use of videoconferencing in business is unlikely to constrain demand growth to
Clear additional policies (beyond the introduction of a carbon price at this
level) will therefore be required to constrain passenger demand in the period
to 2050.
The report notes that a demand increase of 60% could be compatible with a variety
of different policies in respect to expansion at specific airports, which need
to reflect a range of factors beyond the Committee’s remit.   Expansion plans in
aggregate however should be consistent with limiting passenger growth in 2050
to a maximum of 60% above 2005 levels.
Throughout the report, the assumption is that UK action is in the context of
an international agreement which limits aviation emissions in all countries.
The report considers non-CO2 effects from aviation (e.g. water vapour). The scientific
evidence suggests that these are likely to result in increased warming, and will
have to be included within both international and UK targets as scientific understanding
improves. This may mean that the UK’s aviation target needs to be tightened in
The Committee’s next annual report to Parliament in June 2010 will include an
assessment of the latest data on UK aviation emissions.
Lord Turner, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change said:
“Aviation emissions must be included within our strategy to tackle climate change.
We have set out options for achieving the Government’s target that aviation emissions
in 2050 should not exceed 2005 levels. Given the likely pace of technological
progress a demand increase of up to 60% but no more could be compatible with the
government’s target. Aviation policies should be consistent with this overall
limit on demand growth, unless and until more rapid technological progress than
currently anticipated makes any greater increase compatible with the target “


 Notes to Editors
Committee on Climate Change (CCC)
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is an independent body established under
the Climate Change Act to advise the UK Government on setting carbon budgets,
and to report to Parliament on the progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions:
The report is available to download from:
•        The Committee was requested by the Government “to assess scope for [emissions]
reductions, including from improvements in technology and the effect of appropriate
policy levers; and the implications of further aviation expansion beyond 2020”.
•        Given forecast income growth of 150% in the period to 2050, and absent [typo?]
a carbon price or infrastructure capacity constraints, we project that demand
could grow by over 200%, from the current (2005) level of 230 million passengers
annually to 695 million passengers in 2050.
•          Based on the technology mix in the fleet today, emissions would grow to
just under 100 MtCO2, relative to 2005 emissions of 37.5 MtCO2.
•          Fleet fuel efficiency improvement of 0.8% per annum in the period to 2050
is achievable under the current framework through airframe and engine technology
innovation, and improved efficiency of Air Traffic Management and operations.
•        It is currently very unclear that sufficient land will be available for
growth of biofuels feedstocks and to grow food for a global population projected
to increase from the current 6.7 billion to 9.1 billion in 2050.
•        There are no clear implications of our analysis for specific airports (e.g.
Heathrow). The key implication for aviation expansion is that whatever the pattern
of capacity development, this should be consistent with adding no more than 140
million passengers in 2050 (i.e. constraining demand growth in 2050 to around
60% above 2005 levels) if the target is to be achieved.

see also
Comment from GACC
The report of the Climate Change Committee
8th December 2009
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) was set up under the Climate Change Act to
advise the Government on how the climate change target of reducing CO2 emissions
by 80% by 2050 should be met.
In January 2009 the Government set another target – to keep aviation emissions
in 2050 no higher than in 2005 – and declared that airport expansion was conditional
on the achievement of this target.
In December 2009 the CCC issued a special report on aviation, partly as a result
of a request by the Government to advise on whether a third runway at Heathrow
would be consistent with the aviation target.
They advise   that the growth in air traffic movements in 2050 must be constrained
to no more than 55% above the present level.   With larger aircraft this would
permit a 60% increase in passengers.   That represents a drastic reduction compared
to the forecast growth of 200%.
It means that the whole policy of unlimited airport expansion, as set out in
the Air Transport White Paper, is defunct.
The CCC say that higher taxes on air travel are necessary, in addition to a much
higher price for carbon, or else some system of rationing.   They discount the
claims made airlines in relation to miracle aircraft which in future would have
much lower emissions.   They also dismiss as unrealistic the claims made in relation
to biofuels.
New runways?
The CCC express no view on where – at which airports – the 60% increase should
take place.   It would in theory permit two new runways in the South East but only
if no expansion were permitted at other airports.   That would presumably require
legislation to prevent any increase in the number of aircraft movements at all
other airports – which seems unlikely.
Alternatively it would permit growth at regional airports but with no new runways
in the South East.   That would be in line with current Conservative Party policy,
but only to a limited extent.   If the extra 60% (138 million passengers) were
spread between the 30 UK airports it would be an increase of 4.6 million each
spread over 40 years – far below the levels indicated in most airport master plans.
How air travel is to be limited, and how it is to be distributed between UK airports
will need to be decided in the aviation National Policy Statement due to be produced
in 2011.   Until then it is obvious that no planning permissions should be granted.
However, for the reasons below, the 60 % figure appears too high.
Special treatment
The aviation industry is being given special treatment compared to other industries.
The rest of UK industry was being required to cut emissions by 2050 by 80% compared
to 1990.   The CCC report that if aviation is given the target of no increase in
emissions in 2050 compared to 2005, the rest of UK industry will need to cut their
emissions by 90%.
The target set for aviation implies a 120% increase in emissions compared to
1990.     So for other industries it is a cut of 90% compared to an increase for
aviation of 120%.
No one would suggest that aviation emissions should be cut to 80% below 2005,
but there seems no case for allowing even limited expansion.
In addition aviation gets special treatment from paying no fuel tax and no VAT.
Air passenger duty is small by comparison.   It is this tax subsidy which accounts
for the low fares and popularity of air travel.
Too high
There are a number of other reasons for believing that the 60% figure is too
high –
1.  It does not include any assessment of the non-CO2 impacts of aviation – nitrous
oxide emissions and the effect of contrails and water vapour.   Previous scientific
work had indicated that these double the effect of CO2.   If further scientific
work confirms that, then the conclusion will be that much less, probably nil,
growth can be permitted.
2.  It is based on departing flights only.   While this is the formula used by
the UK Government, it is not accepted by all other countries.   If the impact of
aviation were based on the number of flights taken by UK residents, the permissible
increase would be much less, probably nil.
3.  The justification given for allowing an increase in the number of flights
is that it is technically difficult to reduce aircraft emissions.   That is illogical.
It would be more logical to say that an industry which cannot cut its emissions
should not be allowed to expand.
4.  It has not yet been established whether the rest of industry is content to
have their target raised from an 80% cut to 90%.   Obviously the final 10% will
be the most difficult and most expensive to achieve.   A backlash from industry
could force the CCC to revise downwards their recommended growth in air travel.
5.  Nor has it been established whether the public actually approve the special
treatment proposed for air travel.   The effect of a 90% cut for other industries
will be to force up the cost of many basic commodities bought by the lower income
groups whereas it is mainly the better-off who fly.
December 2009

see also
Embargoed until 00:01 Tuesday 08/12/2009
In response to the Committee on Climate Change’s report on aviation, John Sauven
Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, said :
“The government’s entire aviation policy, the basis for their controversial Heathrow
decision, has now been conclusively rejected by the government’s own advisers
as incompatible with their climate targets.
“The Aviation White Paper and the poor decisions it led to must be ripped up
in cabinet, or ripped up in court. We urge the former, but are fully prepared
to see Heathrow’s third runway in the dock.
“We’ve got a small and rapidly decreasing quantity of carbon we can afford to
safely emit. The government should not be allowed to fritter it away on giving
London a seventh runway, when we already fly more than any other nation on Earth.
If ministers continue to bow to the aviation industry’s demands for special treatment,
other industries, and ultimately consumers, will have to pay the hefty price of
making even deeper cuts than those already planned.
“As the Committee on Climate Change says, the policy focus for aviation must
be on limiting demand for flights and investing in alternatives such as better
rail links and video conferencing.”
The government’s Aviation White Paper (2003) assumes that passenger demand will
grow by 200%. The Committee says that this level of growth is incompatible with
the UK’s aviation target.
The Committee says in order to meet the government’s own aviation target (2005
levels of emissions by 2050) passenger demand must be constrained to no more than
60% growth on current levels. In other words the expansion set out in the Aviation
White Paper cannot go ahead.
The report explicitly acknowledges that non-C02 gases have not been fully incorporated
into this target but will need to be accounted for in the future. Inevitably that
means the target will need to be tightened.
The Committee goes on to say that even with a carbon price of £200 per tonne,
growth would still be 115% under the Aviation White Paper’s provisions, meaning
that “clear additional policies will therefore be required to constrain passenger
For more information please contact the Greenpeace Press Office on 0207 865 8255
Notes to Editors:
Greenpeace, WWF, RSPB and CPRE, together with local councils and residents groups,
have launched a legal challenge against the government’s controversial decision
to expand Heathrow airport. They are arguing that the consultation was flawed
and that the decision was irrational because its basis, the Government’s 2003
aviation policy, is out of date and completely at odds with the Government’s climate
change policy. The legal case is due to be heard in the high court 23rd-25th February
The aviation industry is receiving special treatment compared to other industries.
The government’s target for aviation emissions is to return to 2005 levels, whilst
every other sector of the UK economy is committed to reducing emissions by 80%
from a 1990 baseline. The Committee on Climate Change has already warned that
this would cost the economy billions of pounds extra, as it tries to contract
even further to compensate for aviation, yet the Government has failed to put
forward policies on how this could be managed.
The aviation industry also receives financial subsidies from government – paying
no VAT or fuel duty means that the industry effectively receives a £9 billion
subsidy from taxpayers each year.
The public opposition against Heathrow is unprecedented and growing. Last month
a tree was planted on behalf of David Cameron in the middle of the 3rd runway
site. The tree is part of an apple orchard planted on the Airplot, owned by nearly
60,000 people from around the world. Other trees were adopted by Nick Clegg, Labour
MPs, businesses, Government scientists, NGOs and residents (2). The committee’s
findings potentially pit airport expansion plans in different parts of Britain
against each other.


The aviation industry tout biofuels as a silver bullet but the Committee on Climate
Change estimates that biofuels will only account for 10% of the industry’s fuel
requirement by 2050, which amounts to a 5% emissions cut.


The fact is that the technology is far from ready and the crops needed to supply
aircraft carry serious implications for the world’s poor as well as the plight
of tropical rainforests.
Even if these massive problems could be overcome, there are serious doubts as
to whether we could produce the quantities needed to fuel the entire aviation
industry. The industry currently uses about 240 million tonnes of kerosene. If
biofuels were used for just 1 per cent of this, they would need more than the
estimated total world biodiesel production for the year 2002 (3). To rely solely
on biofuels, an area three times the size of Germany would be needed to produce
enough fuel, and even optimistic forecasts of future algae-based production would
require a tank the size of Ireland. The current technology, in terms of what has
actually been trialled, requires 3 million coconuts for a one-way flight from
London to Amsterdam (4).
No plane has ever flown on biofuels alone and the Government itself has admitted
that other forms of transport such as cars and lorries would be ahead of the aviation
industry in the queue for biofuels.
Concerns about biofuels have been raised by a wide variety of stakeholders including
the Royal Society, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and the
Environmental Audit Committee.


‘Green planes’
The industry says that it can deliver the cuts through greener and more efficient
planes, but the evidence shows that their claims are unrealistic as the Committee
say improvements in efficiency will only come at a rate of 0.8% per year.


The industry claims that new technology will reduce emissions which will neutralise
the rise in demand. But the fact is that there are basic technological restraints
that make major improvements impossible to imagine. For example, new technologies
like the introduction of blended wing aircraft, would require massive changes
to airport infrastructure. Furthermore, whilst we cannot rule out unforeseen technological
advances, super-efficient planes only reduce emissions if they replace less efficient
planes, and not if they are additional.


Global trading scheme
The International Air Transport Association recently published a proposal claiming
that the global aviation industry would cut emissions by 50% below 2005 levels
by 2050.


However, IATA does not explain that these cuts would be delivered entirely through
carbon trading. That means the aviation industry wouldn’t cut emissions at all,
but would instead pay other sectors and other countries to make those cuts on
their behalf.
In a letter to Ed Miliband and Andrew Adonis, the Committee on Climate Change
said that carbon trading could not be relied on to cut aviation emissions, and
“in the long term the industry should plan for deep cuts in its own Co2 emissions”.
Climate scientists tell us that developed countries need to achieve cuts of at
least 80% by 2050, and developing countries must achieve cuts of 50%. In this
context, offsetting the emissions of the airline industry by buying as yet non-existent
credits from other countries simply does not fit with this imperative. (6)
Last week the Carbon Trust published a report which revealed that the aviation
industry is set to make billions of pounds in unearned profits under the EU Emissions
Trading Scheme.(7)
Under pressure from airlines concerned about the cost of the scheme, the Commission
has chosen to give 82% of its allowance allocation to the aviation sector for
free, meaning that airlines won’t really be paying for the vast majority of the
carbon emissions they are responsible for.
With any global aviation deal, the devil will be in the detail. A meaningful
global deal needs to deliver real cuts not emissions paid for by other sectors.
Any trading scheme within this must include full auctioning of permits and any
money raised must go to developing countries to help them cope with the impacts
of climate change.

(1) , P130


(3) Wardle D.A., Global sale of green air travel supported using biodiesel, Renewable
and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 7, Number 1, February 2003, pp. 1-64(64)(4) New Scientist, Vol 199, No 2669, August 2008

(5) Committee on Climate Change – Letter to Ed Miliband on global aviation deal
(6)   P.5
(7) ENDS Report – Carbon Trust report

see also

HACAN’s press release

 Tuesday 8th December 2009

Aviation White Paper ‘Dead in the Water’
Campaigners call on Government to drop its ‘fantasy’ third runway at Heathrow
Campaigners from HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise)
and NoTRAG (No Third Runway Action Group) called on the Government to drop its
‘fantasy’ third runway at Heathrow following the publication of the report on
aviation from the Government-appointed Committee on Climate Change.
The Committee has found that the Government has no chance of meeting its targets
to cut emissions unless it slashes future growth levels from 200% by 2050 to 60%
John Stewart, Chair of HACAN, said, “The 2003 Aviation White Paper is now dead
in the water.   Unless the Government tears it up, all its fine-sounding words
at Copenhagen to reduce emissions will be meaningless.”
Geraldine Nicholson, Chair of NoTRAG, said, “The Government needs to get real
and drop its fantasy runway at Heathrow.   No way should so many homes continue
to be blighted just because the Government wants to live out its fantasy.”

see also

Various stories on the Committee on Climate Change report on aviation

Date Added: 8th December 2009

Many stories in the media on the CCC’s report on the future of UK aviation. Links
to the BBC, Guardian and Times stories. Passenger growth will have to be limited
to 60% over the next four decades, compared with an increase of 130% since 1990,
allowing the UK a maximum of around 370 million air travellers per year by 2050,
from 230 million currently.

Click here to view full story…