Climate Change Committee progress report to UK Government – aviation carbon policies sadly lacking
The Climate Change Committee has published its 2021 Progress Report to parliament, on the UK’s actions on climate change. It says “The Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies.” The report says the government has still not produced its Decarbonisation Strategy, which had been due in 2020. The CCC says government should “Commit to a Net Zero goal and pathway for UK aviation as part of the forthcoming Aviation Decarbonisation Strategy, with UK international aviation reaching Net Zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, and domestic aviation potentially earlier.” It says government should assess its “airport capacity strategy in the context of Net Zero and any lasting impacts on demand from COVID-19, as part of the aviation strategy. There should 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. A demand management framework will need to be developed (by 2022) and be in place by the mid-2020s to annually assess and, if required, control sector GHG emissions and non-CO2 effects.” Lack of demand management would mean the sector missing its targets. And more …
Climate Change Committee. 2021 Progress Report to Parliament
The report itself:
Recommendations for the Department for Transport.
Table A6 – aviation
Commit to a Net Zero goal and pathway for UK aviation as part of the forthcoming Aviation Decarbonisation Strategy, with UK international aviation reaching Net Zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, and domestic aviation potentially earlier. Plan for residual emissions (after efficiency, low-carbon fuels, and demand-side measures) to be offset by verifiable greenhouse gas removals, on a sector net emissions trajectory to Net Zero.
Timing 2021 Priority recommendation
Assess the Government’s airport capacity strategy in the context of Net Zero and any lasting impacts on demand from COVID-19, as part of the aviation strategy. There should 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. A demand management framework will need to be developed (by 2022) and be in place by the mid-2020s to annually assess and, if required, control sector GHG emissions and non-CO2 effects.
Timing 2021-22 Priority recommendation
Take a leadership role within the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and work with other high-ambition nations, to set a long-term goal for aviation consistent with the Paris Agreement, strengthen the CORSIA scheme and align CORSIA to this long-term goal.
Continue innovation and demonstration support for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) technologies, aircraft efficiency measures, hybrid, full electric and hydrogen aircraft development and airspace modernisation. Set out a policy package for supporting the nearterm deployment of commercial SAF facilities in the UK (with carbon capture and storage where applicable). Longer-term, support for SAF should transition to a more bespoke, enduring policy to drive uptake.
Timing – Now and ongoing. Policy package in 2021
Use aviation tax reform to address price imbalances between aviation and surface transport, encouraging the low-carbon alternative (e.g. rail) for journeys where one exists. Taxation should also be used, alongside improvements in broadband, to embed positive behaviours that have arisen during the pandemic (e.g. replacing business travel with online networking).
Commit to not use credits from the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) for flights covered by the UK ETS unless and until they can satisfy strict eligibility criteria (equivalence, additionality, permanence, sustainability).
Start monitoring non-CO2 effects of aviation (including through CORSIA for eligible aeroplane operators), set a minimum goal of no further warming after 2050, research mitigation options, and consider how best to tackle non-CO2 effects alongside UK climate targets without increasing CO2 emissions.
A few other extracts from the Progress Report:
• A number of the important elements of the overall Net Zero Strategy have been delayed. At the time of finalising this report, a range of strategies expected in 2020 had not yet been published, including the Heat and Buildings Strategy, the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, the Treasury’s final Net Zero Review, the Aviation Decarbonisation Strategy and the Nature Strategy. Even with these, there are likely to be gaps.
Lack of ambition for aviation demand management would result in higher emissions of 6.4 MtCO2e/year in 2030 relative to the CCC pathway for aviation emissions. (Chart. P25)
Net Zero Aviation Strategy. In light of the UK’s new Net Zero target, the Government has committed to a new consultation on aviation decarbonisation in 2021, followed by a Net Zero aviation strategy before COP26.
Even within departments that are performing better overall there are pockets of poor or slow performance. For example, BEIS’s Heat and Buildings Strategy has been delayed by almost a year, while the Department for Transport has not set out any plans for limiting growth in aviation demand.
The overdue Net Zero Aviation Strategy must set out credible pathways and policies to encourage technological development in the sector but also recognise the potential need to manage aviation demandin future, should improvements in sustainable aviation fuels and low-carbon aircraft fall short of Government and industry ambitions. An assessment of the UK’s airport capacity strategy and a mechanism for aviation demand management should be part of the aviation strategy.
UK greenhouse gas emissions were 499 MtCO2e in 2019. This includes the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions.
Aviation emissions and passenger numbers were increasing. Over the 2009- 2019 period, the total number of UK terminal passengers rose by 36% to nearly 300 million in 2019. Efficiency improvements were not enough to offset this rise in demand, with emissions up 7% from 2009 levels to 40 MtCO2e in 2019.
Business travel demand may fall, with a shift to remote working and video conferencing during the pandemic enabling a longer-term reduction in business travel emissions, in both surface transport and aviation. Corporate travel budgets may also be constrained due to increased financial pressures even as the global economy recovers. Business travellers accounted for a significant proportion (25% at Heathrow, and around 15% at other major UK airports) of all UK passengers prior to the pandemic.5
– Decreases in non-business flying. Aviation demand may be suppressed in the medium term, especially if COVID-19 transmission continues worldwide to some degree. Survey data show that people intend to fly less after lockdowns are lifted.7 Government should not plan for unconstrained leisure flying at or beyond pre-pandemic levels in its strategy for airport capacity and demand management.
Aviation emissions need to fall by 6% per year. In the 2018 to 2019 period, they fell by 1%.
a) Aviation (60% fall in emissions in 2020)
COVID: While it is unclear what the combined impact of these factors will be on the size of the sector in the longer term, this year should be used as an opportunity to develop a strategy for managing aviation demand.
This should be based on a reasonable level of international aviation for the UK, consistent with a Net Zero by 2050 target for the sector, and include an assessment of the UK’s airport capacity. Government must recognise that planning for an evergrowing aviation sector is not consistent with the UK’s Net Zero target as part of its aviation decarbonisation consultation and strategy, due to be published ahead of COP26.
See Chapter 4 for further details on next steps for aviation policy.
See full report at
See also assessment by the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation)
CCC PROGRESS REPORT TO PARLIAMENT CRITICAL OF DELAYS TO GOVERNMENT NET ZERO AVIATION PLANS
28th June, 2021
The Government’s independent climate advisor, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), has published ( https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/2021-progress-report-to-parliament/ ) its annual assessment of the UK’s progress in reducing emissions towards net zero by 2050, with specific comment on how each government department is addressing the challenges.
The report identifies major gaps in policy and is critical of delays to the publishing of key government plans and strategies, including the long-awaited Transport Decarbonisation Plan and the Net Zero Aviation Strategy. The Committee praises the Government’s commitment to include emissions from international aviation and shipping (IAS) in UK climate legislation, a world-first, but stresses that the policies needed to achieve this ambition have yet to be published.
What has the CCC recommended in its report?
1. An aviation decarbonisation pathway to inform demand management and airport capacity policies. The current absence of measures, combined with plans that actually drive growth (proposed cuts to Air Passenger Duty; airport expansions), would result in higher annual emissions of 6.4 MtCO2e relative to the CCC’s pathway for aviation by 2030.
AEF echoes these concerns. The UK aviation industry recently set out its own interim climate targets. Industry’s targets rely heavily on offsetting, whilst the sector’s gross emissions continue to rise until the mid 2030s. In the absence of adequate technologies to directly reduce aviation’s emissions, measures to limit aviation demand and airport capacity will be necessary to reduce emissions.
2. The Government’s overdue Net Zero Aviation Strategy should include an assessment of the UK’s airport capacity strategy and a mechanism for aviation demand management. The CCC repeats its Sixth Carbon Budget advice that there should be no net additional airport capacity as sufficient capacity already exists to meet the level of demand deemed compatible with a pathway to net zero. The Government has not made commitments to review airport capacity nor stated a clear position on this issue, it argues. The uncertainty today about the pace of development of future technologies makes it difficult to justify capacity expansion on the basis that the industry may outperform the CCC’s emission trajectory. It also recommends that the Government puts in place an airport capacity strategy linked to a demand management framework ‘to assess and, if required, control sector GHG emissions and non-CO2 effects’.
The report also highlights that the industry will need to rely on negative emissions to meet net zero by 2050, yet there is currently no price signal for GHG removals in the UK. Similarly, the CCC notes a lack of larger-scale deployment support and policy frameworks specifically for sustainable aviation fuel and GHG removals.
AEF supports the CCC advice on no net increase in airport capacity. We recently called on Government to put a halt to airport expansions until a plan for the sector is in place which acknowledges and plans for the new carbon constraints the Government has committed to impose.
3. The Net Zero Aviation Strategy should set ‘appropriate price incentives’. ‘Reforming aviation taxation, alongside wider reform of carbon pricing, will be critical to achieving Net Zero’, states the report. ‘Government’s current proposals for air passenger duty (APD) reform are largely going in the wrong direction’, it adds. The report recommends incentivising lower-carbon travel through higher taxes on aviation (where there is an alternative to flying), as well as ‘reducing the cost and improving the service for surface transport, especially rail’. It also recommends harnessing positive outcomes of the pandemic, such as a reduction in business travel, through taxation.
The CCC’s advice on taxation, mirrors AEF’s thinking on many key aspects. In response to a recent consultation on aviation tax reform, which focused primarily on the Government’s proposal to cut APD rates on domestic routes, AEF expressed opposition to the proposal, concluding that the Government should instead consider options for carbon charging in addition to existing APD charges.