Tim Yeo, Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, warns Treasury and DfT on excluding aviation from Climate Change Act
Date added: November 6, 2012
The Energy and Climate Change select committee is recommending inclusion of aviation (and shipping) emissions in the UK Climate Change Act which the Government has to decide on by end of December. The Chairman, Tim Yeo, has sent letters to the key departments who will be making the decision, two of which (Treasury and DfT) are opposing inclusion. Tim Yeo has written to Sajid Javid at the Treasury, Patrick McLoughlin at the DfT and to Greg Barker at DECC. He sets out clearly that the advice of the Committee on Climate Change is very clear on this issue: if the UK is to make our fair share of effort towards a global 2°C climate objective, annual UK greenhouse gas emissions – including international aviation and shipping emissions – need to fall to around 160 MtC02e by 2050. If international aviation and shipping are excluded from the accounts, an 80% cut would allow other sectors to emit 160 MtC02e, with aviation and shipping emissions occurring in addition to this. This would lead to total emissions of around 200 MtC02e, which is not consistent with meeting a global 2°C climate objective.’
Letters sent by Tim Yeo to Sajid Javid at the Treasury, to Patrick McLoughlin at the DfT and Greg Barker at DECC – on why international aviation and shipping must be included in the UK’s Climate Change Act
The Energy and Climate Change Committee has today published the letters (below) from Tim Yeo to Sajid Javid, Patrick McLoughlin, and Greg Barker on the issue of Aviation and Shipping Emissions. (Letters to each identical after introductory sentence).
Sajid Javid Esq MP Economic Secretary to the Treasury HM Treasury 1 Horseguards Road London SW1A 2HQ
5 November 2012
Aviation and Shipping Emissions: Inclusion in Carbon Budgets
You will be aware that the Energy and Climate Change Committee recently held an evidence session on the inclusion of international aviation and shipping emissions in future carbon budgets. In light of the importance of this issue for UK climate change policy, I write on behalf of the whole Committee in order to highlight our concerns and to express our view that the Government should seek to include international aviation and shipping emissions in the accounting framework of the Climate Change Act, when it puts forward its proposal to Parliament later this year.
The advice of the Committee on Climate Change is very clear on this issue: if we are to make our fair share of effort towards a global 2°C climate objective, annual UK greenhouse gas emissions – including international aviation and shipping emissions – need to fall to around 160 MtC02e by 2050. If international aviation and shipping are excluded from the accounts, an 80% cut would allow other sectors to emit 160 MtC02e, with aviation and shipping emissions occurring in addition to this. This would lead to total emissions of around 200 MtC02e, which is not consistent with meeting a global 2°C climate objective.’ (1)
Whilst the letter of the law does not currently include these emissions, the spirit of the Climate Change Act which determined the 80% 2050 target was always to include international aviation and shipping emissions. MPs voted for an 80% reduction target on this basis.(2)
The fact that carbon budgets to date have been set in line with a 2050 target that includes international aviation and shipping emissions demonstrates that this was indeed the intention behind the legislation.
We heard that the Government’s analysis shows that the cost would be a “certain degree” less if international aviation and shipping were excluded, but that we would not get the “environmental benefits”. There was no indication that any assessment had been made to quantify the costs associated with environmental benefits that will be forfeited. If this is the case, it suggests the Government’s analysis is somewhat one-sided.
However, we were not able to undertake proper scrutiny of the Government’s methodology because the Treasury refused our invitation to take part in the session and did not respond to my written request to explain whether it had made its own assessment of the associated economic costs.
In any case, Parliament voted for the 80% reduction target on the basis that it would cost up to 2% GDP in 2050. The CCC’s cost assessment of meeting an 80% target that includes international aviation and shipping has not increased and still stands at between 1-2% GDP in 2050.
A decision from Government now to exclude aviation and shipping from the carbon accounts will in effect water down the UK’s 2050 target, to the extent that it is no longer consistent with meeting a global 2°C climate objective. Since the Government has not presented any evidence to suggest the 2°C objective is no longer appropriate (indeed, in the response to my Committee’s report on UNFCCC COP 18, the Government restated its commitment to this goal (3)) a proposal to exclude aviation and shipping emissions would seem to imply that the Government no longer takes the threat of climate change seriously.
While the current uncertainty surrounding the future of the EU Emissions Trading System might mean that it is not possible to incorporate aviation and shipping emissions immediately into the UK accounts, we very much hope that when the Government presents its proposal to Parliament, it will at the very least support the principle that these emissions should be included.
As an issue of crucial importance to UK climate change policy which will surely impact upon international climate change negotiations and the 2°C climate objective, the Committee felt compelled to draw these facts to your attention.
The Committee will also be writing to Ministers at DECC and DfT. I have enclosed a copy of the transcript of our evidence session for your information and look forward to hearing back from you soon.
Signed by Tim Yeo
cc: Rt Hon George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Notes: (1). Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence, Inclusion of international aviation and shipping emissions in carbon budgets, 16 October 2012, He 638-1, Q 3 —-
(2). During the passage of the Climate Change Bill, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Ed Miliband) said to the House: “Last week, Lord Turner wrote to me with the committee’s conclusions, which have been placed in the Library of the House. His report found that to hold global warming to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels-commonly accepted as the threshold for the most dangerous changes in the climate -global emissions must fall by between 50 and 60 per cent. by 2050. Lord Turner concluded that to play its proper part, the United Kingdom should cut its emissions not by 60 per cent. but by 80 per cent. He concluded that the target should apply not just to carbon dioxide but to all six Kyoto greenhouse gases. He also concluded that while there were uncertainties about how to allocate emissions from international flights and shipping, they too should play their part in reducing emissions. The Government accept all the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change. We will amend the Climate Change Bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, a target that will be binding in law. “
Hansard, 16 Oct 2008: Column 939
(3). Energy and Climate Change Committee, The road to UNFCCC COP 18 and beyond: Government Response to the Committee’s Second Report of Session 2012-13, Third Special Report of Session 2012-13, 24 October 2012, He 633, p1
Tim Yeo has criticised plans by senior ministers to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions from aviation and shipping will not be included in UK carbon budgets. Photograph: Lynn Hilton/Rex Features
The former Conservative cabinet minister, Tim Yeo, has sharply criticised plans by senior ministers to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions from aviation and shipping will not be included in the UK’s carbon budgets.
He warned that to leave out these major sources of emissions would contravene the 2008 Climate Change Act, which stipulates emissions cuts of 80% by 2050.
Yeo said this could contribute to dangerous climate change, and that if these transport sectors were left out, other parts of the economy would have to make steeper cuts: “If aviation and shipping emissions are now excluded, the overall target reduction for all other sectors would need to be increased from 80% to around 85%,” he said.
Yeo chairs the parliamentary select committee on energy and climate change, which has written to ministers to urge them to include these major forms of transport in the UK’s carbon budgets. A decision on whether to include them is expected later this year.
George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, is known to be reluctant to take any measure that could be construed as adding to consumers’ bills. He wants to be seen as championing consumers by refusing regulation, and to appeal to the right wing of the Tory party, many of whom are sceptical of green issues. His supporters in government are also understood to have raised concerns with the Department of Transport and the Department of Business, Information and Skills.
Emissions from aviation and shipping have been a heated issue in climate change debates. Aviation alone accounts for close to 3% of global emissions, but because it is difficult to apportion the emissions from international flights to one state or another, governments have tended simply to shelve the issue.
The sectors were left out of the 1997 Kyoto protocol, because rows over how to include them could not be resolved. But this situation is untenable in the long term, argue climate experts, because as international travel and global trade are growing, emissions from the sectors are increasing.
The European Union became the first to attempt to regulate emissions from aviation this year, by including international flights in its emissions trading system. That means airlines must buy carbon permits to cover the emissions generated by all of their planes that take off or land in EU member states.
Airlines protested that this would add to the costs of flights and encourage carriers to avoid Europe. In practice, however, the inclusion adds very little to the cost of flights because the price of carbon permits is so low, at just a few euros per tonne.
Some other countries are unhappy at the regulation. The European commission is embroiled in a dispute with the US and China over the inclusion of flights in the trading scheme. The US Congress has moved to legislate on the issue, in order to forbid US airlines from complying.
In the UK, bringing aviation and shipping into the scope of the carbon budgets would mean that, in future, either emissions from these sectors would have to be brought down, or those of other sectors, such as energy or road transport, would have to be cut even more sharply than planned.
But the Treasury is understood to be concerned that including aviation and shipping in the budgets would raise the price of airline tickets and the cost of goods imported by ship. Green campaigners believe that including the sectors would encourage them to become more efficient.
Yeo said the sectors should be included in the UK’s carbon budgets, which set out how much can be emitted over a set period of years. Not including them would ignore a major and growing source of emissions.
He said: “The aim of the Climate Change Act was to demonstrate British leadership in the international effort to avoid a global temperature rise of 2C, widely regarded as a dangerous potential tipping point for the climate. We must not lose sight of the fact that the ultimate cost of failing to keep temperature rises below 2C could be measured in floods, mass migration, economic disruption and chaos.”
In 2009, the Committee on Climate Change examined the feasibility of the previous Government’s target for aviation emissions in 2050 to be no higher than 2005 levels. The UK Aviation industry was allowed to increase its 2005 emissions by 122 per cent from the 1990 Kyoto baseline whereas all other economic and social sectors have had to decrease emissions.
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