At a meeting on 7th October, RSPB asked Sir Howard Davies whether environmental concerns were being used to filter the 58 proposals received by the Commission, Sir Howard stated clearly that any proposal not meeting the standard would be ruled out. The RSPB welcome this statement, and believe that rules out a Thames Estuary airport. However they remain concerned that Sir Howard seems to believe aviation expansion in the south east is still likely, even though it could compromise agreements to reduce CO2 emissions. On the 7th October there was also a meeting of Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, chaired by Joan Walley. She said “Emissions are currently not falling fast enough to prevent a dangerous destabilisation of the global climate in the coming decades. It would be incredibly short-sighted to slacken our carbon budgets now.” The Committee has found that the UK’s existing carbon budgets represent the minimum level of emissions reduction required to avoid a global 2 degrees temperature rise – and the UK’s leading climate scientists did not believe loosening the budgets was warranted by the science.
Damaging airports ruled out by aviation Tsar, but Sir Howard Davies backs expansion
The RSPB has welcomed a statement from Sir Howard Davies, Chairman of the Airports Commission, ruling out airport proposals which would be environmentally damaging.
However, the conservation charity is concerned that the former CBI head believes aviation expansion in the south east is still likely; even though it could compromise agreements to reduce carbon emissions.
Eleven months in to his review of aviation demand and supply in the south east, Sir Howard has laid out his current thinking ahead of the publication of his interim report due out in December. Mr Davies joked that politicians were extremely grateful that he and not they are responsible for recommending ways to meet the pressure for aviation expansion within the UK target of 80% emissions by 2050.
Asked directly if environmental concerns were being used to filter the 58 proposals received by the Commission, Sir Howard stated clearly that any proposal not meeting the standard would be ruled out.
Chris Corrigan, RSPB Regional Director for the south east, says: “Sir Howard’s stance clearly rules-out a Thames Estuary option as its is at the top end of impact to the natural environment. We will continue to argue the case for no estuary airport.”
Sir Howard’s speech came on the same day that the Government’s Environmental Audit Committee met and warned Ministers they must be act now to avoid missing carbon emission targets. Joan Walley, chair of the Committee, said: “Emissions are currently not falling fast enough to prevent a dangerous destabilisation of the global climate in the coming decades. It would be incredibly short-sighted to slacken our carbon budgets now.” [See details below].
Chris Corrigan added: “Like MP’s, I do not envy Sir Howard his mission. The RSPB will continue to offer guidance, and help deliver continued development of the Thames Estuary and the south east in ways which support and improve the natural world for wildlife, our communities and the economy.”
Tim Webb, RSPB London Communications Manager, on email@example.com.
Don’t water down climate targets, Government warned08 October 2013(House of Commons, Environmental Audit Committee)
MPs have warned the Government not to water down the UK’s long-term climate change targets in next year’s review of the fourth carbon budget (covering 2023-2027).
- Report: Progress on Carbon Budgets: (HTML)
- Report: Progress on Carbon Budgets (PDF)
- Inquiry: Progress on Carbon Budgets
- Environmental Audit Committee
In light of recent climate science, the Committee examined whether the emissions restrictions in the carbon budgets are still valid as an appropriate UK contribution to tackling climate change. It found that the UK’s existing carbon budgets represent the minimum level of emissions reduction required to avoid a global 2 degrees temperature rise – regarded as a dangerous threshold – and that the UK’s leading climate scientists did not believe loosening the budgets was warranted by the science.
Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee Joan Walley MP:
“Some commentators are intent on spinning recent developments in climate science to suggest we can relax our efforts to cut carbon, in the mistaken belief that this would be better for our economy.”
“Given that emissions are currently not falling fast enough to prevent a dangerous destabilisation of the global climate in the coming decades it would be incredibly short-sighted to slacken our carbon budgets now.”
“The UK’s leading climate scientists are saying loud and clear that there is no scientific case for watering down our long term emissions reduction targets. And the recent IPCC report echoes that message. Policy-makers must listen.”
The report also looks at progress towards meeting existing and future carbon budgets.
The current (2008-2012) and second (2013-2017) carbon budgets will be easily met because of the recession. But the UK is not on track to meet the third (2018-22) and fourth budgets (2023-2027), because not enough progress is being made in decarbonising transport, buildings and heat production.
The report warns that arrangements for managing and reporting progress against carbon budgets have not been working properly. The Government’s Carbon Plan – which set milestones for five key Government Departments to cut carbon – is out of date. Quarterly progress reports against milestones have not been published as promised and current departmental business plans are not aligned with the plan.
Joan Walley MP added:
“The Government’s current carbon plan seems to have been cobbled together merely to meet the legal requirement under the Climate Change Act. We want to see this become a working document that is fully aligned with Departmental Business Plans with meaningful milestones measured on a quarterly basis and an oversight board that is properly empowered to hold Departments to account.”
“The Government should be introducing innovative policies now to ensure that Britain is well on the way to going green by the middle of the 2020s. Ministers need to show much more vision now on how we can cut waste, improve our public transport and insulate more homes and businesses from rising fossil fuel costs. If we leave these changes for another ten years it will become much more expensive to meet our climate change targets and we will be left behind by successful green countries like Germany.”
The Green Deal is the Government’s key energy efficiency policy supposed to help meet our carbon budgets, but low take-up rates so far shows that there may be significant non-financial barriers as well as financial issues holding homeowners back from signing up. Statisics updated since the Committee agreed its report (paragraph 51) show that only 12 Green Deals have gone ‘live’ so far, with a further 293 households signed up to the scheme. Back in March Greg Barker predicted 10,000 households would be signed up to the scheme by the end of the year. The report urges the Government to urgently review the barriers in time to introduce new financial incentives in the Autumn Statement 2013 to bolster take up rates.
The Government should set a 2030 decarbonisation target for the power sector now, rather than in 2016 as the Energy Bill sets out. The Government should also reconsider placing a statutory duty on local authorities to produce low-carbon plans for their area and work to ensure that all local authorities are measuring and reporting on their emissions.
The carbon budgets are made up of a traded sector element, achieved through the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) covering power generation and heavy industries, and a non-traded sector element covering road transport, agriculture, buildings, waste, achieved through UK domestic policies. The current low-carbon price in the EU ETS – the result of the economic downturn of recent years and over-allocation of emissions permits – means that that scheme will not deliver the emissions reductions envisaged when the fourth carbon budget was set. Without any tightening of the EU ETS increased pressure will therefore be placed on the non-traded sector, which will have to produce further emissions reductions to cover the emerging gap left by the traded sector.
The report calls on the Government to:
- Commit to not-loosening the fourth carbon budget.
- Identify when it will come up with key policy initiatives to bridge this gap and reduce emissions in the non-traded sector in the fourth carbon budget.
- State how it plans to strengthen the EU ETS in conjunction with the European Commission.
The Government is required under the Climate Change Act 2008 – passed with cross party support – to set a series of five-year carbon budgets to restrict cumulative carbon emissions over the coming decades to safe levels, reducing emissions by at least 34% by 2020 and by at least 80% by 2050 (against a 1990 baseline).
Since the Committee agreed its report in September, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change’s ‘working group 1’ has published its own report, which reinforces the imperative to urgently tackle climate change identified by the Committee.
The latest statistics on the take up of the Green Deal, published by DECC each month, have updated the figures published at paragraph 51 in the Committee’s report. The statistics are here.
UK international aviation (cf. domestic flights within UK) is not even covered by the UK’s carbon budgets. And in that unsatisfactory situation, the Airports Commission is having to consider whether we can hugely increase UK aviation. That is not compatible with what Joan Walley is saying, above.
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.