Climate Change

(See also under Specific Airport-related reports for Gatwick climate change data)


Title:  Government airbrushes aviation’s non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions 

Date:  June 2015

Author:  Nic Ferriday, for AirportWatch

Length:  14 pages

Summary:  It been recognised for many years that the climate change impacts of aviation extend well beyond those of carbon dioxide (CO2), due to jet fuel being burned at high altitude, creating a range of impacts – including formation of cirrus cloud from contrails.  But this fact is largely ignored by the government and its agencies. A new report, produced for AirportWatch, examines the reasons for this and proposes an ‘index’ which will help to ensure that the issue of non-CO2 gases is properly accounted for. Though DECC continues to use a multiplier of 1.9 for the CO2 alone, in its conversion factors, the issue of the non-CO2 impacts has been systematically downplayed by the UK government and its associates over recent years. While ‘scientific uncertainty’ is claimed as the reason to ignore non-CO2, the report considers the real reason is that aviation emissions are an embarrassment to government and others who want to expand airports and air travel. The new paper suggests a new index should be developed. To be very conservative, this should be set at a multiplier of 1.6 of the CO2 emissions alone. It would be an interim measure, pending a thorough and independent review of the issue of aviation’s non-CO2 emissions. Ignoring the non-CO2 impacts of aviation, due to scientific uncertainty, is not acceptable. Using lack of certainty as a justification for ignoring a known issue would not be accepted in other areas.

Link: AirportWatch Briefing on Radiative Forcing




Date: April 2015

Author:  Carbon Market Watch

Summary:  The EU must press ICAO to agree ambitious, legally binding, emissions reduction goals for 2030 and 2050 for the aviation sector, consistent with making a fair contribution to limiting global warming to well below 2ºC. In February, EU negotiators inserted language into the UNFCCC negotiating text to include both international aviation and shipping emissions in the Paris Agreement and see action by 2016. The EU should now ensure that this language is preserved and strengthened in the final agreement, in line with the 2ºC goal.

Link:  Aviation and climate change


Short AirportWatch briefing on CO2 emissions and a new runway

Title:  “Airports Commission’s Recommendations Inconsistent with Climate Target”

Date:  January 2015

Author:  AirportWatch

Length:  2 pages

Summary:  The briefing shows how the Airports Commission’s recommendations would not be consistent with the CO2 target for UK aviation, unless there is major change in aviation policy. The Commission will do further work on theoretical increases in the price of carbon, to attempt to keep aviation emissions at 37.5 MtCO2. However, if this is done, the net economic benefit of a runway would become negative, fatally undermining the Commission’s runway recommendation.

Link:  AirportWatch_short_climate_and_runway_briefing_January_2015

Longer AirportWatch briefing on CO2 emissions and a new runway

Title: “Aviation carbon emissions, a new runway and the Airports Commission”

Date:  January 2015

Author:  AirportWatch

Length:  18 pages  (including footnotes)

Summary: The briefing looks at the actual carbon figures, of current and forecast carbon emissions by the UK aviation industry, and anticipated carbon efficiencies in future decades. It assesses whether these can be kept below the 37.5 MtCO2 cap, without a new runway – and with one. The briefing takes the form of questions and answers, so dividing the issue into sections, for clarity.  The data shows that building new runway in the South East is very likely to be incompatible with the UK’s carbon targets, and sets out why.

Link:  AirportWatch briefing on CO2 emissions and new runway January 2015



2nd of 5 briefings from AEF (Aviation Environment Federation)

Is a new runway compatible with climate policy?”

Date:  October 2014

Author:  AEF

Length:  2 pages

Summary:  This is a concise, easy to read, document setting out the facts very clearly.  A key point is that a new runway would have very significant climate implications that fall outside the remit of the Airports Commission to address. AEF explains how both the Committee on Climate Change and Airports Commission have stated that demand for flights in the UK will have to be restricted to prevent CO2 emissions from the aviation sector overshooting the level consistent with the Climate Change Act.  However, neither has identified how this can be achieved if a new runway is built, leaving a policy gap. That gap would result in the UK’s climate targets being compromised. The options are to dramatically increase the cost of flying (by the UK acting alone), restrict capacity available at regional and other South East airports to below today’s levels – or better and more acceptable – make optimum use of existing airport capacity.

Link: AIRPORT EXPANSION AND CLIMATE CHANGE – Is a new runway compatible with climate policy?



Date:  September 2014

Author:   Joint NGOs, AEF, CBT, FoE, Greenpeace, RSPB, WWF

Length:  4 pages

Summary:   The NGOs set out 6 key tests for a UK aviation strategy, that they say should be included in the manifestos of the political parties. The NGOs are concerned that building a new UK runway would mean locking into the UK into carbon-intensive infrastructure at a time when the UK urgently needs to reduce emissions. It is critically important that climate
change targets continue to be respected in the context of aviation expansion.The 6 tests include: Ensuring climate change commitments are not compromised by aviation growth; limiting the impact of aircraft noise on both health and quality of life; protecting public health by upholding and toughening air pollution laws around airports; ensuring all local environmental and social impacts of airport expansion, and refuse expansion if the likely impact is unacceptable; ensuring full parliamentary scrutiny and debate; and giving preference to using existing airport capacity.

Link:  Joint policy proposals for a sustainable future aviation strategy


Title:  “A simple framework for assessing the trade-off between the climate impact of aviation carbon dioxide emissions and contrails for a single flight”

Date:  Received 17 February 2014, accepted for publication 28 May 2014
Published 18 June 2014.  In Environmental Research Letters.

Authors: E A Irvine1, B J Hoskins1,2 and K P Shine

1 Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, UK
2 Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London, London, UK

Abstract:  Persistent contrails are an important climate impact of aviation which could potentially be reduced by re-routing aircraft to avoid contrailing; however this generally increases both the flight length and its corresponding CO emissions. Here, we provide a simple framework to assess the trade-off between the climate impact of CO emissions and contrails for a single flight, in terms of the absolute global warming potential and absolute global temperature potential metrics for time horizons of 20, 50 and 100 years. We use the framework to illustrate the maximum extra distance (with no altitude changes) that can be added to a flight and still reduce its overall climate impact. Small aircraft can fly up to four times further to avoid contrailing than large aircraft. The results have a strong dependence on the applied metric and time horizon. Applying a conservative estimate of the uncertainty in the contrail radiative forcing and climate efficacy leads to a factor of 20 difference in the maximum extra distance that could be flown to avoid a contrail. The impact of re-routing on other climatically-important aviation emissions could also be considered in this framework



Title:  “A one-way ticket to high carbon lock-in: the UK debate on aviation policy”

Date:  ? November 2012

Authors:  F Ruth Wood, Alice Bows & Kevin Anderson, in Carbon Management Journal, Future Science

Length:   4 pages

Summary:  … the debate is ongoing as to whether investment in aviation generates returns over and above similar investment levels elsewhere in the UK economy …The paper looks at whether investment in aviation is good for Britain.  The evidence base to support future investment decisions on aviation expansion would include comparisons with anticipated returns from similar levels of investment in other areas of UK activity.  Any investment in high-carbon activities now effectively locks all sectors included within the EU-ETS into a future with high carbon prices.

Link:  A one-way ticket to high carbon lock-in: the UK debate on aviation policy


Title:  “Flying in the Face of Fairness: Intergenerational Inequities in the Taxation of Air Travel”

Date: November 2012

Authors:  Intergenerational Foundation (Pete Lockley and Simon Dresner)

Length:  39 pages

Summary:  The Intergenerational Foundation (IF) has been established to promote fairness between generations. They believe that each generation should pay its own way, which is not happening at present either financially or in terms of climate.  A new report on aviation shows that aviation is subsidised, through not paying either VAT or fuel duty, and that this amounts to an annual subsidy of some £11 billion per year. This is money lost to the public purse, which could contribute towards funding public services. This means that there is a double injustice to future generations.  Under-taxing aviation not only adds to the national debt which future taxpayers will have to fund, but also encourages more flying and greenhouse gas emissions which future generations will have to live with.  Future generations will pay the price of the failure of this generation to control flying. It should be essential reading for all those involved in the debate about the future of aviation.

Link:  Flying in the Face of Fairness: Intergenerational Inequities in the Taxation of Air Travel


Title:  “Aviation and Climate Change Policy in the UK”

 Date:   July  2011

Author:   Peter Lockley, Ubina Environmental Consulting

Length: 34 pages

Summary:  The over-riding aim for a sustainable aviation policy should be to ensure the sector makes a fair contribution towards meeting the UK’s overall climate change targets, especially the legal requirement for an 80% reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. This will require confirmation of the 2050 Target, as well as robust mechanisms to ensure the sector is on track to meet it, and a mechanism to review its stringency in light of developments in climate change policy or the science of aviation’s non-CO2 impacts. The report makes a number of policy recommendations.

Link:   Aviation_and_Climate_Change_Policy in the UK_July 2011


Title:  “Aviation and Climate Change: Public Opinion and the Scope for Action”

Date:     December 2007

Author:   Mark Gill and James Humphreys   at Woodnewton Associates (  for enoughsenough )

Length:   24 pages

Summary:   A ‘poll of polls’ study reveals public support for Government action on climate
change.   It reveals that a majority of people are willing to change their behaviour
to tackle climate change, but expect the Government to take the lead.   The report
found that although 78% of people say they would alter their behaviour, 70% expect
a lead from the Government.   The report found there is no public appetite for
airport expansion.   Only 18% support it.   Indeed, 57% of people support &lquot;a policy
aimed at slowing down the growth in air travel&rquot;.

Link:       Aviation and Climate Change: Public Opinion and the Scope for Action


Title:   “UK Air Passenger Demand and Carbon Dioxide Forecasts 2009”

 Date:      January 2009
Author:   DfT
Length:   188 pages
Summary:   The Department for Transport’s 2009 projections for aviation emissions were
published in   the document UK Air Passenger Demand and Carbon Dioxide Forecasts.
This report updates UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 Forecasts 2007 (which is no
longer available on the DfT website).
Link:     UK Air passenger demand and CO2 forecasts 2009 (PDF – 3072 KB)    link
Errata to UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 Forecasts 2009 (PDF – 22 KB)

 Title:   “Muslim Green Guide to Reducing Climate Change”

 Date:   September 2008
Author:   Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences   (IFEES)
Length:     13 pages
Summary:   The IFEES have produced a guide for green living for Muslims.   Page 9 deals with air travel.

Title: “The future starts here”

 Date:   September 2006
Author:   Friends of the Earth and the Tyndall Centre
Length:     4 pages
Summary:       The route to a low carbon economy.     The report  shows the UK could move to a successful, low-carbon economy. However, it shows that unless aviation is constrained,
the rest of the economy will have to be re-structured to make room for it.
Link:     FoE – The Future Starts Here


 Title: “Predict and Decide” Aviation, climate change and UK policy.

 Date:   September 2006
Author:     Dr Sally Cairns and Carey Newson,  Environmental Change Institute, Oxford
Length:     3.42 Mb     122 pages
Summary:        The Environmental Change Institute, part of Oxford University, published  this comprehensive report into the policy questions surrounding aviation and climate
change. It confirms almost everything we have been saying about the need to constrain
aviation growth.
Link:     “Predict and Decide”

Title: “Aviation Growth – just how bad is it for the climate?”   – AirportWatch leaflet

Date:    August 2008
Author:   AirportWatch
Length:   2 sides A4
Summary:   Lots of useful facts and figures in an A5 size leaflet
Link:        Aviation and climate leaflet



Title: “Aviation in a Low-Carbon EU”

 Date:   September 2007
Author:   Tyndall Centre   for Friends of the Earth
Length:     53 pages
Summary:     The Tyndall Centre’s report investigates to what extent EU proposals to include
aviation in its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) would help deliver a low-carbon
EU future.   The EU plans to include aviation in the EU ETS from 2011 for intra-EU
flights, with ALL flights departing from or arriving in the EU included from 2012.

Global Climate Change and Biodiversity   (April 2003)

This summary report from the international conference “Global Climate Change and Biodiversity” presents some of the scientific research into how the natural world is being affected by climate change – and also how the natural world might respond in the future.  The conference, held at the University of East Anglia in Norwich,  in April 2003, was organised jointly by the RSPB, WWF-UK, English Nature, UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.    Global Climae change and Biodiversity    pdf

“Birds on the Move” – by the RSPB

 A climatic atlas of European Breeding Birds.  (January 2008). A Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds – which maps potential changes in distribution of all of the continent’s regularly occurring nesting birds – shows that we need urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and redouble our efforts for nature conservation, if we are to avoid calamitous impacts on birds.   “Birds on the move” – Introducing a Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds  (723Kb)

How do the charges work out, comparing a return flight for 2 people to Rome, with driving there?

Nov 2011.  With the debate on reducing Air Passenger Duty, and increasing petrol prices, how to the costs work out, comparing driving and flying?  How much tax is paid, how much duty, how much VAT? The distance from London to Rome is about 890 miles.  So driving would be a bit further, as the roads do …Details …


AirportWatch short briefing on Copenhagen

Airport maps showing routes and CO2 emissions per route

There is now a very interesting website, with details on all UK airports, that has been created by Jeremy Birch, from Stop Bristol Airport Expansion (SBAE).  The website has information using maps and graphs, in a very user-friendly way.  It shows each airport, with a map indicating the routes it serves – domestic and international in different colours.  The width of the lines gives an indication of the proportion of carbon emissions that come from that route (approximately).  There is also information on the top destinations, numbers of passengers, rate of growth (or contraction) and growth or decline of routes.
(May 2009).

Committee on Climate Change:

Committee on Climate Change.  Letter from Adair Turner to Ed Miliband and Andrew Adonis, entitled:

CCC advice on a framework for reducing global aviation emissions.  9.9.2009

•  Committee on Climate Change, report on “Building a low-carbon economy – the UK’s contribution to tackling climate change” published on 1.12.2008.   The section on aviation is  (31 pages)  is   “Chapter 8: International Aviation and Shipping”
•  Committee on Climate Change, 4th Carbon Budget report. Published 7th December 2010.   The Carbon Budget says international aviation and shipping should be included, and it is vital that UK aviation emissions in 2050 are no higher than in 2005.  Also that, as technologies to cut aviation emissions are not readily available, other sectors of the economy will need to cut by 85% in 2050 in order to let aviation grow by 60%.   The Fourth Carbon Budget       Also press release and key points


Climate Change Bill:

•  FOE briefing on why aviation must be in the Climate Change Bill    (May 2008)

•  Why emissions from aviation and shipping must be in the Climate Change Bill from the start (WWF briefing)




Climate Change – various briefings:

•  WDM response to the Government’s Air Duty consultation (April 2008)

•  AEF’s and other organisations’ responses to the Air Duty Consultation
•  Carbon dioxide and the contribution of aviation to the UK total emissions

•  Emissions Cost Assessment

•  Climate Change

•  WDM briefing on aviation and climate change

•  WDM report (March 2007) “Dying on a jet plane”

•  POSTnote (Parliamentary Office for Science & Technology)  on Climate Change Science – (Nov 2007)

•  AirportWatch leaflet on aviation and climate   (July 2008)

•  Britons produce more CO2 from flying than any other nation

•  WDM figures show Heathrow’s 3rd runway would emit more CO2 than all of Kenya



Emissions from planes and other forms of travel

DEFRA passenger transport emission factors (June 2007) comparing emissions from forms  of transport

• How planes compare with other means of travel

Comparison of carbon emissions from cars, train, coach and plane for journeys within the UK, from Transport Direct

Carbon offsetting


EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS):

•  Response from Caroline Lucas on the current stage of the EU ETS (May 2008)

•  T & E briefing on the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme  (updated Nov 2007)

•  UK Regulation of Aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme  (DEFRA website – may be transferred to DECC)

•  What’s wrong with the ETS –  by the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF)  May 2009 (2 pages)

•  Friends of the Earth report  – “A Dangerous Obsession”  –  Nov 2009  (64 pages)


What % of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions are from aviation?

 •  Gillian Merron’s reply in the House of Commons  2.5.2007  

Government figures show that in 2005 aviation accounted for 13% of total UK climate change damage.  That is an understatement because it is based on departing flights only:  if the calculation is based on return flights by UK citizens in 2007 the figure would be nearer 20%.

The figure for CO2 alone is 6.3%, but this is multiplied by 2 to take radiative forcing into account. Currently international aviation is not included in the UK’s climate change inventory as there is no internationally agreed method for allocating such emissions between states.

Gillian Merron’s reply in the House of Commons

Gillian Merron responded to a Parliamentary Question by Peter Ainsworth, on 2nd May 2007, saying:

Aviation: Carbon Emissions

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the most recent estimate is ofthe percentage contribution of aviation, based on emissions by all aircraft departing fromUK airports, and including the radiative forcing effect, toUK climate change emissions. [134036]

Gillian Merron [holding answer 26 April 2007]: International aviation is not included in theUK’s climate change inventory as there is no internationally agreed method for allocating such emissions between states. In 2005 aviation represented 6.3 per cent. ofUK emissions, calculated as a proportion of emissions in theUK inventory plus emissions from international aviation and shipping departing theUK. Detailed data may be viewed at:

2 May 2007 : Column 1671W  Hansard

As the “Future of Air Transport Progress Report” (December 2006) noted, aviation emissions arising from the combustion of kerosene include carbon dioxide, water vapour, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, particulates and other compounds. These give rise to “radiative forcing” impacts. The total radiative impacts were estimated by the EC TRADEOFF project to be approximately twice those of carbon dioxide (excluding cirrus cloud formation).

Using a radiative forcing multiplier of two, emissions from flights departing the UK contributed approximately 13 per cent. of total UK emissions in 2005. However, the figures for non-aviation sources do not include any radiative forcing attributable to them, as conclusive figures are not available.

The reply can be seen on Hansard:

[1]   Answer to Parliamentary Question2 May 2007.  This figure includes the greater damage done by aircraft emissions at high altitude (the radiative forcing effect), but excludes the damage caused by the formation of cirrus clouds.


[2]   The method of calculation adopted by the government is to count emissions caused by all aircraft departing fromUK airports.  But 70% of passengers usingUK airports areUK citizens, and it is more logical to say that theUK should be responsible for their outward and inward flights, but not to count any flights by foreign nationals.


[3]  Decarbonising the UK.  The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. “If the UK Government follows the scientific consensus that a 450ppmv stabilisation level is required, the aviation sector will exceed the carbon target for all sectors by 2050.”  This result does not include the radiative forcing effect.


   AirportWatch statement on aviation emissions


Aviation now contributes 4.9% of climate change worldwide

Report by IPCC authors.   Globally aviation contributes 3.5% if cirrus cloud is not taken into account, and 4.9% if it is.   21.5.2009
 •   The same report estimates that CO2 accounts for 6.3% of total UK emissions and 9.8% of all greenhouse gases, but excluding cirrus.  Using a multiplier of 2.8 to take account of cirrus, (compared to a multiplier of 1.9 if cirrus is excluded)  the UK figure is nearer 17% than 13%.


Statements on aviation and climate change

Government figures show that in 2005 aviation accounted for 13% of total UKclimate change damage.[1] 

That is an understatement because it is based on departing flights only:  if the calculation is based on return flights by UK citizens in 2007 the figure would be nearer 20%.[2]

By 2050 aviation, if it were to go on growing as forecast, would use 100% of the carbon the UK can afford to emit if we adopt the climate change target most scientists think is right.[3]