David Cameron’s attempt to neutralise the toxic political issue of airport expansion until after the next election has been thwarted by the climate change watchdog, (The Commititee on Climate Change) which has announced it will report this summer [summer 2014] on the impact of the plans on the UK’s climate commitments.
The news is a blow to politicians who hoped they could avoid taking a view on a politically fraught decision until after the 2015 election, when the Davies commission will report on Britain’s airport needs.
The government’s climate change committee said it expected to report to parliament in the summer on the environmental implications of airport expansion.
Citing figures from Howard Davies’ interim report, the committee’s chief executive, David Kennedy, also said that the cost of long-haul flights would need to rise by up to £200 to curtail demand and stay within the UK’s carbon emissions targets.
The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said last week that he would not allow expansion if it breached the government’s climate change commitments.
The Davies commission interim report, published last week, referred to the previous recommendations of the climate change committee, but was opaque on how those targets could be met, expansion permitted.
Ministers are committed by law to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 compared with 2005 levels, with emissions from aviation and shipping to be included in this target. The climate change committee has said this would require aviation emissions to return to 2005 levels by 2050.
The Davies commission has said this is achievable if passenger demand growth is kept to 67% by 2050. * [The earlier CCC advice was 60% passenger growth over 2005 level by 2050. link to 2009 advice ].
Kennedy told the Guardian: “We said back in 2009 that it would be possible for the government to plan for 60% demand growth, and stay inside the climate change commitments. That is the scope for demand to increase.
“We are due to report to parliament next July on the progress on meeting carbon budgets, and that would be the occasion for us to consider the report of the Davies commission.
“The expansion of Heathrow by one runway would stay within the 60% limit, depending on the extent of demand growth at other locations.”
He said it was an open question whether government targets could be met if a second runway at Heathrow was proposed or expansion was allowed at Gatwick.
The Davies commission favoured three options: a third runway north-west of Heathrow, the airport’s preferred choice; a second proposal to double the length of an existing runway at Heathrow, put forward by the unconnected Heathrow Hub group; and a second runway to the south of Gatwick.
The Davies commission itself suggested that to meet government targets, the carbon price would have to rise to £600 per tonne of CO2 by 2050, as opposed to the current price of £3 per tonne, if runway capacity was totally unconstrained, and no other fuel-efficiency measures were found. That would require the current average short-haul fare rising from £103 to £146, and the average long-haul fare rising from £397 to £602.
Kennedy explained: “The Davies commission has said if capacity is unconstrained and demand rose for example by 200%, it would be necessary for the carbon price, and cost of flights, to rise by the figures in the report to keep the increase in demand to 60%.”
Kennedy stressed other environmental factors would be in play, but were not his committee’s responsibility. He said: “If the climate change targets are being met, then the remaining issues become cost, and local impacts relating to the economy, air quality, noise and traffic congestion, but these are issues for which the climate change committee does not have responsibility.”
He expressed confidence that the commission will not ignore the climate change implications of expansion. He said: “We wrote to the Davies commission and they seem to be taking commitments under the Climate Change Act seriously.
“The higher the level of aviation emissions, the deeper the emissions cuts required in other sectors to meet the economy-wide targets”.
One of the comments below the article:
UK aviation emissions: 37.5 million tonnes and not a molecule more!
It isn’t just the Prime Minister (“Divisive airport debate returns to haunt Cameron”) who has problems with the Davies’ Commission look at UK CO2 emissions from civil aviation, as your political editor, Patrick Wintour, points out in his reporting of the committee on climate change chief executive David Kennedy’s initial analysis. There is a “never exceed” finite limit of 37.5 million tonnes of CO2 from all UK flights that has to be respected now to plan future capacity and to ensure that this target is actually achieved by 2050, however “opaque” the Airport Commission’s report seems at first glance. And opaque it certainly is!
It is just possible to grow UK aviation capacity by 60%, providing efficiency targets for aircraft performance, air traffic management and daily operations are all met within this absolute carbon cap but even these targeted 1% per annum gains across the UK’s air transport system will be difficult and costly; David Kennedy’s unassailable mathematics and view that one additional runway at Heathrow might be possible but only at the expense of curtailing almost any growth elsewhere, could well give airlines and airport executives the kind of present don’t want to find nestling under their Christmas trees.
It seems, however, that Mr Cameron’s deputy, Nick Clegg, does realise the implications of a tight carbon cap for civil aviation and just like those of us in the environment NGO community, is looking forward to and will support the committee on climate change’s evolving views due in a few months time.
So roll on summer – 37.5 million tonnes allocated to all UK civil aviation within our legally-binding climate targets and not a molecule more is the end game as the CCC point out. This is a substantial cap on unrestrained growth and needs heavyweight political endorsement from all party leaders. Now that would be a truly great Christmas present.
Aviation Environment Federation
Fourth Carbon Budget Review – part 2
The cost-effective path to the 2050 target
Committee on Climate Change l December 2013
Progress meeting carbon budgets
The Climate Change Act requires that we report annually to Parliament on progress meeting
carbon budgets. We have published five progress reports in October 2009, June 2010,
June 2011, June 2012 and June 2013. Our next annual report is due in July 2014 and will include a backward look at how the first carbon budget (2008-12) was met.
Recent decisions and analysis reinforce the need to prepare for deep emissions cuts by 2050:
• The Government confirmed in December 2012 that emissions from international aviation
and shipping are included in the 80% emissions reduction target for 2050. Given the
difficulty in delivering deep reductions in emissions from international aviation and shipping
(e.g. due to limited opportunities for low-carbon fuels and projected aviation demand
growth), this reinforces the need to develop options that could reduce emissions in other
sectors to very low levels.
Emissions from international aviation and shipping are not currently included in carbon budget accounting, but Government have confirmed that they are
included in the 80% emissions reduction target for 2050.
* They say this (Page 110 of Airports Commission interim report at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/271231/airports-commission-interim-report.pdf )
“The Airports Commission’s carbon capped, capacity unconstrained forecast [their scenario 3 – see Page 107 updates the previous work of the CCC, using a broadly similar approach. The Commission’s updated analysis suggests that:
●● based on current forecasts, the compatible level of passenger demand growth
is around 67% by 2050;
●● this translates into an increase of around 38% in the number of ATMs, given
current assumptions around average aircraft sizes and load factors; and
●● as the CCC found, this is compatible with a range of policies on capacity
4.17 Notwithstanding some differences in the DfT and CCC models, the results are
broadly similar. The differences between the estimates can be attributed largely to
assumptions regarding load factor and aircraft fuel efficiency. For instance, the CCC
model forecasts average load factors of 85% by 2050, whereas the Commission’s
forecasts are lower at 80%.”
Airports Commission interim report is at
and appendix 2 on the long-term options is at
Committee on Climate Change reminds Airports Commission of carbon restriction on aviation growth
Sir Howard Davies
20 Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BT
3 July 2013
We read with interest the Aviation Commission’s discussion paper “Aviation and Climate Change”.
In working out appropriate investments in aviation infrastructure, it is essential to recognise that aviation emissions are included in the target to reduce economy wide emissions by 80% in 2050 on 1990 levels, which is set in the Climate Change Act.
The fact that aviation emissions are in the 2050 target implies a trade off between emissions in this and other sectors of the economy: the higher the level of aviation emissions, the deeper the emissions cuts required in other sectors to meet the economy-wide target.
Our analysis has illustrated how the 80% target could be achieved through reducing aviation emissions to 2005 levels in 2050 and reducing emissions in other sectors by 85% on 1990 levels.
Reducing aviation emissions to 2005 levels in 2050 could be achieved through a combination of fuel and operational efficiency improvement, use of sustainable biofuels, and by limiting demand growth to around 60% in 2050 compared to 2005.
Reducing emissions in other sectors by 85% in 2050 on 1990 levels is at the limit of what is feasible, with limited confidence about the scope for going beyond this.
It is of course possible that there may be scope to reduce emissions more in other sectors, which would allow aviation demand to grow by more than 60% in 2050. However, this may well be the limit, here and in other developed countries, compatible with achieving the internationally agreed climate objective.
Given the need to limit aviation demand growth in a carbon constrained world, we
recommend that this should be reflected in your economic analysis of alternative investments.
For example, for each investment, you should assess whether this would make sense if
demand growth were to be limited to 60% by 2050.
We would be very happy to come and discuss these issues with you and the Commission if that would be useful.
Chairman, Committee on Climate Change
John Selwyn Gummer, Baron Deben – (John Gummer)
In September 2012, Lord Deben was confirmed as Chairman of the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change, succeeding Adair Turner. The committee advises the UK Government on setting and meeting carbon budgets and on preparing for the impacts of climate change.
Link to open letter from a large number of NGOs, to the Airports Commission, on aviation carbon emissions and climate targets.
Aviation must not be dropped from UK carbon target, say campaigners
Committee on Climate Change: