Climate Change Briefings & Information

Aviation already accounts for about 13% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.  That is about 6.5% of the actual carbon dioxide emitted, though that is somewhat underestimated, as it does not take account of the carbon on return flights to the UK.
The present rapid growth of air travel, if allowed to continue unchecked, would mean the UK would find it almost impossible to meet its 2050 target for reducing emissions by 80%.
The aviation industry routinely claims aviation emits about 2% of global carbon emissions. This is not the full story.  As planes fly at altitude, they also cause formation of cirrus cloud in the upper atmosphere, which affects the climate – though the science is complicated and the precise extent of the problem is not known.  The effect of the cirrus cloud, and the NOx and other gases emitted, and their interactions in the atmosphere, means the effect of aviation emissions on the climate are around double those of just the CO2 itself. 
A study published in May 2009 showed that global aviation accounts for 3.5% of human climate impact if cirrus cloud is not taken into account. And 4.9% globally if it is included.
Air travel is increasing rapidly. Even in the developed countries like the UK, the industry would like to double by perhaps 2030 or 2040. Elsewhere in the newly expanding economies, air travel is growing by 4% or more per year. And the global industry plans to keep to a rate of growth of this order of magnitude.
To get the liquid fuels the industry will need, as Peak Oil begins to make its mark, the industry is desperately searching  for alternative fuels, from either biofuels or from other sources, such as from coal.  Without these sources it can neither grow at the rate it would like. The industry hopes, unrealistically, that biofuels will enable it to keep its carbon emissions down.

Briefing on inclusion of international aviation and shipping in the UK’s Climate Change Act

Briefing on inclusion of international aviation and shipping                   (November 2012)

See also letters by Tim Yeo.  6th November 2012.  Letters to Treasury & DfT

Committee on Climate Change:

The advice from the Committee on Climate Change to the UK government, that number of air passengers (= demand) could grow by only 60% of the 2005 level by 2050 is at
•    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  (the CCC report on aviation is due on 8.12.2009)

•  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

•   Government Response to the Committee on Climate Change Report on Reducing CO2 Emissions from UK Aviation to 2050
August 2011   DfT response to CCC 

The Government published a response to this report on 25 August 2011.


Non-CO2 impacts of aviation, including cirrus cloud from contrails
At present, there is no agreed figure for the amount of climate altering effect that is produced by aircraft at high altitude, including cirrus cloud formed by contrails,  in addition to the effect of CO2 they emit. The UK government uses a multiplier of 1.9 for this extra impact by planes. An article in New Scientist in August 2011 presented evidence from a German scientist that contrail cirrus ended up covering 0.6% of Earth’s surface – an area 9 times as great as that covered by line contrails as they emerge from the planes.
More information at   Impact of contrails on climate

including an  extract from the Committee on Climate Change Report – April 2012  Page 33 Contrails and induced cirrusand

2011 Guidelines to Defra / DECC’s GHG Conversion Factors      Page 59 of 102  (which shows the multiplier of 1.9 that is used by the UK).


 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
•  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) Guidelines to Defra / DECC’s Greenhouse Gas Conversion Factors for Company Reporting (Excel 1.2 MB) October 2010  comparing emissions from forms  of transport

and Older GHG conversion factors Previous GHG conversion factors  2007

•  How does air travel compare with other means of travel?
Grams_CO2_transportmodesUK 2008 – Comparison of carbon emissions from cars, train, coach and plane for journeys within the UK, from Transport Direct
Carbon offsetting FoE Jan 2007 

 EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS):

•    Information from the European Commission on the 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?

6.3% given in that answer.
See also  indicating that UK aviation emissions were 6.4% in 2010, and 6.9% in 2009.

New 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%.


AirportWatch short briefing on Copenhagen

•    AirportWatch short briefing on Copenhagen  (Nov 2009)

 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).



Briefing on Aviation and Climate Change

“Clearing the Air: The Myth and Reality of Aviation and Climate Change”
by T & E (Transport & Environment)  – European Federation for Transport and Environment
The report intends to satisfy the many demands for information and analysis on the issue of aviation and climate change coming from policymakers, the media and interested citizens.  It brings together the findings of recent studies in light of the current political debate and discussions taking place about a range of policy options.

“Clearing the Air: The Myth and Reality of Aviation and Climate Change” – by T & E

“Dying on a jet plane”:

Inequality, flying and the global injustice of climate change – a report by the World Development Movement  (March 2007)You pay the aviation industry £173 every year…  It is widely reported that aviation pays no tax on fuel and no VAT.  WDM calculates that the net impact of these factors results in an effective subsidy to UK aviation in 2007 of £10.4 billion….so that the richest 18% of the UK can enjoy cheap flights… The average salary of passengers using British airports is £48,000   … which cause climate change that hits the poorest people in the world.  WDM report – “Dying on a jet plane”