UK to include international aviation and shipping in carbon budgets, and aim for overall UK 78% CO2 cut by 2050

In December 2020 the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published its guidance for the UK government on its Sixth Carbon Budget, for the period 2033 – 37, and how to reach net-zero by 2050.  That included the recommendation on aviation that there should be no net airport expansion, and that international aviation and shipping (IAS) should be fully included in the carbon budgets.  Now the government has accepted many of their recommendations, including that the UK should cut carbon emissions by 78% (compared to 1990) by 2035.  This is 15 years earlier than had been the original goal.  The CCC recommended  that IAS should be properly within carbon budgets; also that the target for aviation, instead of being allowed to emit 37.5MtCO2 per year by 2050, should be reduced to 23MtCO2 by 2050, following the BNZ (balanced net zero) pathway. There is no commitment yet by government to insist on that reduction.  It would mean a large amount of UK engineered greenhouse gas removals by 2050 having to be assigned to making the aviation sector net-zero.  People would have to pay for the carbon they emit being removed, rather than just “fly-tipped into the atmosphere”, which would make flying more expensive. Ways (taxation?) will be needed to make that fair.



Climate change: UK to speed up target to cut carbon emissions

By Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst.  Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin


Radical new climate change commitments will set the UK on course to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035, Boris Johnson will announce this week.

For most households the targets mean more electric cars, low-carbon heating, renewable electricity and, for many, cutting down on meat and dairy.

For the first time, climate law will be extended to cover international aviation and shipping.

But Labour said the government had to match “rhetoric with reality”.

It urged Mr Johnson to treat “the climate emergency as the emergency it is” and show “greater ambition”.

The prime minister’s commitments, which will become law, bring forward the current target for reducing carbon emissions by 15 years. This would be a world-leading position.

Homes will need to be much better insulated, and people will be encouraged to drive less and walk and cycle more. Aviation is likely to become more expensive for frequent fliers.

The government has accepted the advice of its independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) to adopt the emissions cut, which is based on 1990 levels.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted a major surge in CO2 emissions from energy this year, as the world rebounds from the pandemic.

The UK’s new commitments come as US President Joe Biden prepares to stage a climate summit from Washington.

Environmentalists welcomed the government’s move, but warned that ministers had consistently failed to achieve previous CCC-set targets.

And they insisted that Chancellor Rishi Sunak must show clearly how the transition is to be funded.

“This is fantastic – very big news,” Leo Murray of the climate charity Possible said.

But he added: “We’re not on track to meet previous climate commitments and in many ways the government is still failing.”

Mr Murray said ministers were “facing both directions at the same time”, as they had scrapped the Green Homes Grant for insulating homes, had not stopped airport expansion and were “still pushing a £27bn roads budget”.

Ed Matthew, campaigns director of climate think tank E3G, said: “Setting an ambitious emission reduction target would boost the UK’s diplomatic drive to persuade other countries to set out ambitious targets of their own.”

He added: “The UK now has the opportunity to spark a global green industrial revolution, but ultimately its credibility will rest on action.”

The CCC report accepted by the government says low-carbon investment must scale up to £50bn a year in the UK. But it adds that, in time, fuel savings from more efficient equipment will cancel out investment costs.

The CCC believes around 1% of GDP – national wealth – would need to be spent on shifting away from fossil fuels over 30 years.

Its chairman, Lord Deben, said previously: “The implication of this path is clear: the utmost focus is required from government over the next 10 years.

“If policy is not scaled up across every sector, if business is not encouraged to invest, if the people of the UK are not engaged in this challenge – the UK will not deliver Net Zero by 2050. The 2020s must be the decisive decade of progress and action.”

Net Zero means cutting emissions as far as possible, then capturing any emissions that cannot be prevented through tree-planting or engineering.

The government has adopted the new 2035 deadline for a 78% emissions cut because scientists say this is needed to keep the rise in global temperatures close to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

For Labour, shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said: “The character of this government on climate change is now clear: targets without delivery.

“So while any strengthening of our targets is the right thing to do, the government can’t be trusted to match rhetoric with reality.”

He added: “We need a government that treats the climate emergency as the emergency it is. That means greater ambition than this government matched with much more decisive action.”

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin


The press release by BEIS at


  • on 9 December, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published its advice on the level at which to set Carbon Budget 6 (CB6), covering 2033 to 2037. The CCC recommended that CB6 should be set at 965 MtCO2e, reducing emissions 78% from 1990 to 2035 (including international aviation and shipping emissions)   [ On 22.4.2021 this Statutory Instrument  ,The Carbon Budget Order, was published on the Parliamentary website, for Commons Business papers, confirming the target of 965 MtCO2 ]. 
  • the government is laying legislation on 21 April to set the budget at the level recommended by the CCC. This is a highly ambitious target for the mid-2030s – close to the UK’s previous 2050 target (an 80% reduction on 1990) just 2 years ago and consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts towards 1.5°C

Earlier the CCC said:

Emissions over the five years of the fourth carbon budget (2023-2027) are capped at 1,950 MtCO2 e.  We recommend that the fifth carbon budget is set at 1,765 MtCO2 e, including emissions from international shipping, over the period 2028-2032 [ but international shipping was not included].

The Climate Change Act (until 2019) required that UK emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 were reduced to at least 80% below 1990 levels.  Then government agreed to net zero by 2050, ie. 100% reduction from the level in 1990.


Carbon BudgetCarbon budget levelReduction below 1990 levels
1st (2008 to 2012)3,018 MtCO2e25%
2nd (2013 to 2017)2,782 MtCO2e31%
3rd (2018 to 2022)2,544 MtCO2e37% by 2020
4th (2023 to 2027)1,950 MtCO2e51% by 2025
5th (2028 to 2032)1,765 MtCO2e
6th (2033 to 2037 965 MtCO2e

taken from

See earlier:

Details, from Carbon Brief, of what the Climate Change Committee recommended to government, in December 2020

9 December 2020

CCC: UK must cut emissions ‘78% by 2035’ to be on course for net-zero goal

The UK needs to cut its emissions by 78% below 1990 levels over the next 15 years, according to the latest advice from the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

For the first time, the government’s climate advisers have proposed a legally binding “carbon budget” that is in line with the national target of “net-zero” emissions by 2050, which was first set last year.

More specifically, the CCC has now set a target for the five-year period 2033-37, which is known as the “sixth carbon budget”.

The report’s scope represents the degree to which the UK’s ambition to tackle climate change has scaled up recently. Just 18 months ago, when the national target was still set at an 80% reduction, the same level of emissions cuts were expected to take twice as long.

It comes as the UK – which will host the COP26 UN climate talks next year – aims to establish itself as an international climate leader, following an ambitious new “68% by 2030” commitment under the Paris Agreement and prime minister Boris Johnson’s new “10-point plan” for achieving net-zero.

However, with the country set to miss its upcoming fourth and fifth carbon budgets, the government’s own figures show current plans still fall “a long way short” of what is required, the CCC says.

Here, Carbon Brief draws out the key points from the CCC’s new guidance – made up of nearly 1,000 pages across three reports – which covers the sixth carbon budget advice and, more widely, the net-zero pathway it has mapped out for achieving a fully decarbonised economy by 2050. 

The section of the Carbon Brief article, on aviation and shipping:

Aviation and shipping

The UK has played a key role at ensuring progress at both the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and International Maritime Organisation (IMO),  the CCC says.

However, these sectors are global in nature and the report warns that a unilateral UK approach to reducing emissions could be detrimental. It also notes that progress in decarbonising these sectors has been slow and changes in emissions have mainly been driven by changes in demand.

On aviation, the report finds that the government should commit UK international aviation to reaching net-zero by 2050 at the latest, with UK domestic and military aviation potentially reaching this target earlier.

Following the BNZ (balanced net zero) pathway, the aviation industry should reduce its emissions to 23MtCO2e/year in 2050 and use greenhouse gas removal technology to make up for these emissions, the CCC says. This approach would mean that 40% of UK engineered greenhouse gas removals at that time is assigned to making the aviation sector net-zero.

The pathway to 23MtCO2e/year in 2050 is shown in the chart below.

Chart showing how the aviation industry could reach net-zero emissions by 2050 by using greenhouse gas removal technology.

Chart showing how the aviation industry could reach net-zero emissions by 2050 by using greenhouse gas removal technology. Source: CCC’s Policies for the Sixth Carbon Budget and Net Zero (2020).

The report recommends work on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), finding that a SAF mandate is likely to be more effective than methods such as emissions trading schemes or carbon taxation.

Furthermore, the CCC says, there must be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory and can accommodate the additional demand. The growth in demand for aviation will also need to be “constrained to 25% growth by 2050 from 2018 levels”, it adds.

On shipping, the IMO has agreed to reduce global international shipping emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels, the CCC notes, with an intermediary checkpoint of 40% improvement in carbon intensity compared to 2008 levels by 2030.

However, the report states that more “stretching” targets should be introduced for new ship and fleet efficiencies, as fleet carbon intensities have already improved by 30% from 2008 to 2018.

The government should also commit to the delivery of “a phased roll-out of clean maritime clusters”, the report states. The UK’s first clean maritime cluster at commercial scale should supply more than 2TWh/year of zero-carbon fuels and be operating by 2030 at the latest. The report recommends a “roll-out during the early 2030s to achieve a 33% share of zero-carbon fuels being used in UK shipping by 2035”.

The Guardian report says:

The government has caused consternation among senior climate experts around the world in recent months, through a series of measures that have appeared at odds with its commitments to tackling the climate crisis. Senior ex-diplomats told the Guardian that the decision to slash overseas aid was causing particular concern among developing countries ahead of the Cop26 summit.

Observers are also concerned at actions including the green light for a new coalmine, now subject to a public inquiry; new licences for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea; the UK’s support for making Australia’s climate sceptic former minister Matthias Cormann head of the OECD; the scrapping of the green homes grant, the government’s only “green recovery” measure; airport expansion; and slashing support for electric vehicles.

Chris Venables, of the Green Alliance thinktank, said: “It’s great news that the government will put the 2035 target into law, and including aviation and shipping is genuine global climate leadership. But it’s increasingly jarring for this long-term ambition not be backed up by action in the here and now. The clock is running down to Cop26 in November, and a detailed and fully funded net zero plan is needed well before then.”


See earlier:

Climate Change Committee – recommendations to government – lots on aviation carbon changes and policies needed

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has published its guidance for the UK government on its Sixth Carbon Budget, for the period 2033 – 37, and how to reach net-zero by 2050.  There is a great deal of detail, many documents, many recommendations – with plenty on aviation. The intention is for UK aviation to be net-zero by 2050, though the CCC note there are not yet proper aviation policies by the UK government to achieve this. International aviation must be included in the Sixth Carbon budget. If the overall aviation CO2 emissions can be reduced enough, it might be possible to have 25% more air passengers in 2050 than in 2018. The amount of low-carbon fuels has been increased from the CCC’s earlier maximum realistic estimates of 5-10%, up to perhaps 25% by 2050, with “just over two-thirds of this coming from biofuels and the remainder from carbon-neutral synthetic jet fuel …” Residual CO2 emissions will need to be removed from the air, and international carbon offsets are not permitted. There is an assumption of 1.4% efficiency improvement per year, or at the most 2.1%. There “should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory.”  The role of non-CO2 is recognised, but not included in carbon budgets; its heating effect must not increase after 2050.  And lots more …

Click here to view full story…

The CCC main full report

The Sixth Carbon Budget – the road to UK’s Net Zero


The Sixth Carbon Budget – Methodology reporting


Policies for the Sixth Carbon Budget and Net Zero


There are many sector summaries;  The Aviation sector summary is

The Sixth Carbon Budget Aviation

The CCC’s Key Recommendations

Our recommended pathway requires a 78% reduction in UK territorial emissions between 1990 and 2035. In effect, bringing forward the UK’s previous 80% target by nearly 15 years.

The Sixth Carbon Budget can be met through four key steps:

1. Take up of low-carbon solutions. People and businesses will choose to adopt low-carbon solutions, as high carbon options are progressively phased out. By the early 2030s all new cars and vans and all boiler replacements in homes and other buildings are low-carbon – largely electric. By 2040 all new trucks are low-carbon. UK industry shifts to using renewable electricity or hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, or captures its carbon emissions, storing them safely under the sea.

2. Expansion of low-carbon energy supplies. UK electricity production is zero carbon by 2035. Offshore wind becomes the backbone of the whole UK energy system, growing from the Prime Minister’s promised 40GW in 2030 to 100GW or more by 2050. New uses for this clean electricity are found in transport, heating and industry, pushing up electricity demand by a half over the next 15 years, and doubling or even trebling demand by 2050. Low-carbon hydrogen scales-up to be almost as large, in 2050, as electricity production is today. Hydrogen is used as a shipping and transport fuel and in industry, and potentially in some buildings, as a replacement for natural gas for heating.

3. Reducing demand for carbon-intensive activities. The UK wastes fewer resources and reduces its reliance on high-carbon goods. Buildings lose less energy through a national programme to improve insulation across the UK. Diets change, reducing our consumption of high-carbon meat and dairy products by 20% by 2030, with further reductions in later years. There are fewer car miles travelled and demand for flights grows more slowly. These changes bring striking positive benefits for health and well-being.

4. Land and greenhouse gas removals. There is a transformation in agriculture and the use of farmland while maintaining the same levels of food per head produced today. By 2035, 460,000 hectares of new mixed woodland are planted to remove CO2 and deliver wider environmental benefits. 260,000 hectares of farmland shifts to producing energy crops. Woodland rises from 13% of UK land today to 15% by 2035 and 18% by 2050. Peatlands are widely restored and managed sustainably.