Government fails to properly include international aviation in UK carbon budgets – decision put off till 2016

The government was legally required to make a statement to Parliament by the end of December on whether it will include CO2 emissions from international aviation and shipping (IAS) in the UK’s climate target under the Climate Change Act. Today Ed Davey went against the advice from the Committee on Climate Change, and postponed the decision, using some ambiguous wording. His exact words were that the government “is deferring a firm decision on whether to include international aviation and shipping emissions within the UK’s net carbon account” and that it “will revisit this issue when setting the fifth Carbon Budget (2028 – 2032).” ie. in 2016, which is after the next general election. IAS will continue to be excluded from the first 4 carbon budgets, which run until 2027. The Chancellor and many Conservatives are reluctant to do anything that can be seen as strengthening environmental regulations. If the greenhouse gases from IAS were included in the UK targets, other sectors, including electricity generation and industry, would have to make steeper cuts in their emissions. Government justifies its postponement by arguing that there is uncertainty about the EU ETS at present, and also whether there just might be progress on a global aviation carbon scheme through ICAO in 2013. 


In their report, DECC estimates CO2 emissions from international aviation to be at 32.5 MtCO2 per year over all the next carbon budget periods, to  2050 – in accordance with their level under the EU ETS.

Ed Davey defers decision on aviation and shipping in carbon targets

A decision had been expected this week, but now will not be made until 2016, after the next general election

by , environment correspondent

Call for cap on aviation emissions

A decision had been expected this week, but now will not be made until 2016, after the next general election. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA

Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary, has postponed a decision on whether to include greenhouse gases from shipping and aeroplanes (see below) in the UK’s carbon targets.

A decision had been expected this week, but now will not be made until 2016, after the next general election, which is also when the fifth carbon budget – setting out the UK’s emissions from 2028 to 2032 – will be decided. Green campaigners were angered by the deferral, which they said was unnecessary.

The issue is one which has divided ministers, as many on the right of the Tory party – including the chancellor – are reluctant to do anything that can be seen as strengthening environmental regulations. If the greenhouse gases from aviation and shipping were included in the targets, it could mean other sectors, including electricity generation and industry, would have to make steeper cuts in their emissions.

But the Committee on Climate Change, the statutory body that advises ministers on how to meet the UK’s long term target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050, has advised that the UK’s share of international transport in the form of aviation and shipping should be included in the national carbon targets. Emissions from aviation are increasing globally as more people fly, and shipping has high emissions because of the cheap low-quality oil used on most tankers.

It would have been an incendiary move for Davey, a Liberal Democrat, to become the first minister ever to reject the committee’s advice. But in the face of Tory opposition, there was little chance of a consensus on the issue emerging.

The government justified its decision by arguing that by 2016 there should be “more clarity on how aviation emissions will be tackled at an EU and global level”, pointing to a decision by the European Commission last month not to force airlines from outside the EU to submit to its emissions trading scheme. Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s climate chief, said at that time she was suspending the enforcement because of a commitment by the International Civil Aviation Organisation to move to a global agreement on cutting emissions associated with flying.

Davey said: “Given the uncertainty of what is happening at the EU and global level in managing aviation emissions, we think it sensible to defer our decision on the inclusion of aviation and shipping emissions in the UK’s carbon budgets. This government is fully committed to meeting the 2050 target [of cutting the UK’s emissions by 80%], and this is consistent with the UK’s contribution to the international goal of limiting global temperature rises due to climate change to 2C.”

The Department of Energy and Climate Change also said the deferral would not affect the first four carbon budgets, which have were set to “allow headroom for emissions from international aviation and shipping”.

Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK, said: “This decision is yet another example of dither and delay, kicking another key decision on climate change into the long grass until after the election. The clarification that the 2050 emissions target includes aviation and shipping is a positive step, but it’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the government’s green credentials. The UK’s existing carbon budgets already take emissions from international aviation and shipping into account, and representatives of the aviation and shipping sectors have expressed their support, so there is no real reason to delay this decision.”

He added: “The government needs to prove that it is still serious about the Climate Change Act commitments – world-leading legislation that was passed with overwhelming cross-party support just four years ago.”

Andy Atkins, executive director at Friends of the Earth, said: “Yet again the coalition has ducked a key decision on tackling climate change – if only ministers put as much effort into taking action to cut emissions as they did in finding reasons to avoid it. Climate change is one of the biggest threats the planet faces – we need bold and decisive leadership.”

Decc’s announcement came as Labour opposed the second reading of the coalition’s energy bill on Wednesday, because of its lack of a target to decarbonise electricity generation by 2030, which the Committee on Climate Change has also called for.

Tim Yeo, the former Tory minister, told the Guardian on Monday that he would seek an amendment to the bill to include such a target, probably at the report stage which is likely to be next February. Atkins warned: “A real political fight is brewing, with many Lib Dem backbenchers keen to back [Yeo’s] proposal. It’s time to put the country’s long-term interests ahead of George Osborne’s reckless gas-fuelled economic strategy – MPs from all parties must vote for clean power and an energy system we can all afford.”



19/12/12 (From AirportWatch)

Airport Campaigners disappointed international aviation excluded from carbon budgets

The Government has just announced that it will not include international aviation and shipping in its 5 yearly carbon budgets – for now (1). But its publication, Report on international aviation and shipping emissions, does confirm the Government’s commitment to reduce the UK’s overall CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050.

Sarah Clayton, co-ordinator of AirportWatch, the network which represents airport campaign groups across the country, said; “Whilst we are pleased that the Government has reaffirmed its target to cut overall emissions by 2050, we are disappointed that international aviation has been excluded from the carbon budget covering the next 5 years. This is the time when big decisions will be taken about airport expansion. With international aviation emissions excluded from carbon budgets it could give the green light to a level of expansion that is not sustainable in the long-run.”

Cait Hewitt, Deputy Director at AEF, said: “the Climate Change Act 2008 is a world-leading piece of legislation, designed to ensure that we play our part in limiting dangerous global warming. But to be effective it must apply to all sectors of the economy. With the Committee on Climate Change having advised that inclusion of aviation and shipping need not result in any costs beyond those already accepted, we are disappointed that the Government has further postponed a decision on whether to accept the advice of its own climate experts.”

Notes for Editors:







19th DECEMBER 2012



Today Government has published a Parliamentary Report announcing that, recognising uncertainty over the international framework for reducing aviation emissions and particularly the treatment of aviation within the EU Emissions Trading System, it is deferring a firm decision on whether to include international aviation and shipping emissions within the UK’s net carbon account.

The Parliamentary Report clarifies that the first four carbon budgets, covering the period 2008-2027, have been set to leave headroom for international aviation and shipping emissions, putting us on a trajectory which could be consistent with a 2050 target that aligns with the UK’s share of the international goal of limiting global temperature rises due to climate change to 2°C.

The Government does not intend to alter the way in which international aviation and shipping emissions have been taken into account in carbon budgets 1-4.

Government reaffirms its overall commitment to the 2050 target and recognises that emissions from international aviation and shipping should be treated the same as emissions from all other sectors, in order to reach our long-term climate goals.

In taking this decision, Government has taken full account of advice provided by the Committee on Climate Change, and will revisit this issue when setting the fifth Carbon Budget.

Publication of this report fulfils the Government’s statutory obligations as laid out in Section 30 of the Climate Change Act. Copies of the Parliamentary Report have been laid in the House and can be obtained electronically from the DECC website at:

with the Parliamentary Report (7 pages of text) at

 International aviation and shipping emissions and the UK’s carbon budgets and 2050 target



Some key statements from the Parliamentary Report:

“International aviation and shipping emissions are not currently included within the 2050 target as defined by the Act, or within the four carbon budgets that have been set.”


“The CCC have recently provided advice on this issue [ie. whether emissions from international aviation or international shipping are to be regarded as emissions from sources in the United Kingdom] recommending inclusion of international aviation and shipping emissions in the carbon budget framework and 2050 target and concluding that the barriers identified at the time of drafting the Act have since been sufficiently reduced or removed. The CCC recommended inclusion of international aviation emissions on the basis of its inclusion in the EU-ETS, and of shipping emissions on the basis of their forecast of emissions, taking account of the Energy Efficiency Design Index developed by the International Maritime Organization.”


“In setting the levels of existing carbon budgets, which go out to 2027, the Government has taken account of international aviation and shipping emissions, and the recommendations of the CCC. This is illustrated in the figure below. In effect, the budgets for other sectors have been constrained so that, to 2027, the UK is on a trajectory that could be consistent with a 2050 target that includes emissions from international aviation and shipping.”

Historic emissions are taken from the UK National Atmospheric Emissions inventory. Aviation emissions out to 2050 are assumed to be constant at the level of the EU ETS cap in 2020 (32.6Mt per year). Shipping emissions out to 2050 are taken from the high emissions scenario of the CCC’s Review of UK Shipping Emissions (2011), as recommended by the CCC.  

{The figure of 32.5 Mt is the EU ETS cap of 95% of the 2004 – 2006 level. ie. 95% of around 34 MtCO2 from international aviation emissions in that period.   AW note}


“Due to the degree of uncertainty over the future shape of international agreements [meaning possible progress by ICAO by October 2013] affecting international aviation, in particular aviation’s treatment within EU-ETS, we are deferring a firm decision on whether to include international aviation and shipping emissions within the net carbon account at this time.”


“We are also deferring a decision on the inclusion of international shipping, as although this sector is not affected directly by the uncertainties affecting international aviation, we would prefer to maintain a consistent approach to both international sectors”


“Our decision to defer the decision on inclusion implies no change to existing agreed policy to achieve carbon budgets 1-4 (notwithstanding our existing commitment to review the level of the fourth carbon budget in 2014, in order to ensure alignment between the UK’s emissions reduction commitments under the Carbon Budgets, and the commitments under the EU).”


“The CCC have made recommendations on the basis that the UK should aim for a 2050 target of 160MtCO2e which includes international aviation and shipping.”



The carbon emissions figures given in the DECC announcement

There seems to be a discrepancy between 31MtCO2 figure that the CCC have used in the past, for UK aviation emissions ( Link )  and 32.6 MtCO2 figure used in the 19.12.2012 statement from DECC ( link ).  The discrepancy might be the difference in the CCC’s figures (based on bunker fuels) and the HMG’s figures on the UK’s share of the EU cap.

The difference between the 32.6 MtCO2 figure, and the 37.5 Mt that formed the basis of CCC’s 2009 report  (link)  is that the former, lower figure, is for net emissions allowing for trading, and the latter referred to gross, actual emissions. 37.5 MtCO2 included domestic aviation; the equivalent for international only would be 35 MtCO2.

The Aviation Environment Federation has been arguing this year that they see little justification in the CCC having recommended earlier this year to use 35 Mt as the benchmark for gross UK aviation emissions in 2050 rather than the lower EU ETS cap figure of 32.6 Mt.. See

The CCC calculates that UK aviation produced around 37.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year (MtCO2) in 2005 [1] and UK shipping produces somewhere between 12 – 16 MtCO2 [2] out of the UK total of around 690 MtCO2.  The CCC anticipates that by 2050 emissions from UK international + domestic aviation would be around 38 MtCO2 per year, and from shipping up to 18 MtCO2.

Domestic aviation emissions accounted for around 2.4 MtCO2 in 2005, and are therefore a relatively small proportion (around 0.3%) of total UK GHG emissions.

In April 2012 the CCC said: “International aviation emissions should be added to budgets based on the UK share of the EU ETS cap (i.e. 31 MtCO2e per year).”  Link  page 11

In December 2009 the CCC said: “UK aviation CO2 emissions in 2005 were estimated to be 37.5 MtCO2 on a bunker fuels basis. This report therefore sets out the Committee’s assessment of the actions required to ensure that UK aviation CO2 emissions in 2050 do not exceed 37.5 MtCO2, and in particular assesses the maximum increase in demand from current levels which is likely to be consistent with this target given current best estimates of future technological progress.”  (link )  page 7







Ministers warned over plans to exclude transport emissions

Tim Yeo attacks plans by senior ministers to ensure that shipping and aviation are left out of UK carbon budgets

Tim Yeo speaks at Ecobuild conference at Earl's Court in London

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.”




Complications for UK aviation emissions accounting, from postponement of the EU ETS for a year, for flights to and from the EU

The EU ETS is relevant to the inclusion of international aviation and shipping in UK climate targets to the extent that the Committee on Climate Change’s advice is that aviation should be included on the basis of EU ETS – i.e. its net impact would count towards the budgets.
There are 2 complications in terms of EU ETS delay:
1. The EU ETS provided an accounting framework. The Climate Act allows for emissions ‘reductions’ from all sectors to be made through participation in EU ETS, to avoid industries having to pay twice; adding aviation to UK carbon budgets at the level of the UK’s ETS cap of some 32 MtCO2 per year (something that is technical to calculate and possible for the industry and government) provided a defensible and policy-relevant figure for the UK to adhere to. International aviation is not, technically, in the UK Climate Act, but this is how the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has taken account of aviation, in the first 4 carbon budgets.
2. The ETS provided a policy mechanism for delivering a long term target for aviation. This is not to say no other policies would be needed – the recent discussion about whether the UK should adopt a specific decarbonisation target for the power sector, alongside its participation in EU ETS, is a case in point.
NGOs have always argued that aviation and shipping should be included in the carbon budgets, if necessary on the basis of bunker fuel sales for which figures have always been available. Therefore they don’t see EU ETS as a prerequisite for the inclusion of international aviation in UK carbon budgets. But this would require going back to the drawing board somewhat in terms of CCC’s approach so far.

The ETS target is for the UK’s international aviation emissions to be 95% of their 2004 – 2006 level from 2013 onwards, which is some 31 MtCO2 per year for the UK.

With the 12 month suspension of the EU ETS for flights outside of the EU, the burden increases. The ability to include these emissions is removed.

In 2010 UK aviation emissions were nearly 11.5% lower than in 2005.

In 2010 the total CO2 from UK domestic and international flights was 33.3mtCO2 using DECC figures.

This compares to 37.6mtCO2 in 2005. The 2005 figure for UK international flights, excluding domestic flights which emitted about 2.4 MtCO2, was of the order of 35 MtCO2.

Under the EU ETS, airlines have their emissions capped at 95% of their level in 2004 – 2006 (ie. approximately 2005) by 2013. That would mean UK international aviation can emit 95% of 35 MtCO2 per year after 2013 under the ETS. That is 31 Mt CO2 by the CCC’s calculation. (sic – the maths is impenetrable).

Such an approach to the sector’s inclusion in the budgets would mirror the treatment of other sectors that are covered by the EU ETS.

It is not expected that ICAO will come up with any global scheme to cap international aviation emissions in the foreseeable future. There is just too much internal dissent within ICAO, in part between the rich countries with established and large airline industries – and the countries with new and rapidly developing airlines and increasing numbers of passengers.

It is expected that the European Commission will cave in to some extent on its ETS, in the face of continuing pressure. Therefore it is by no means guaranteed that the ETS will be the same as it is now when, if ICAO does not come up with sufficient proposals, it resumes in November 2013. What the ETS will look like then is not known.

While the DECC document produced on 19.12.2012 presumes the CO2 emissions from the UK’s international aviation will remain at around their 32.6 MtCO2 level out to 2050, this is not yet guaranteed by law. International aviation and shipping remain outside the Climate Change Act, officially.

That means the Airports Commission under Sir Howard Davies will not have definite carbon targets to work with, in his assessment of UK airport capacity.

It also means there will not be a clear statement of UK aviation carbon targets in the UK’s new aviation policy white paper, due for publication in March 2013.

It would be sensible if the Davies Commission undertook a large piece of work, as it is not being done elsewhere, to assess the impact of various airport growth scenarios with the carbon limits that are likely over the next 40 or so years, out to 2050.