UK calls for long-term international aviation emissions goal as it unveils its draft 'Aviation 2050' strategy
(photo: Heathrow Airport)
Thu 31 Jan 2019 – The UK government will press for a long-term goal on international aviation climate emissions to be negotiated and ideally agreed by ICAO’s 41st Assembly in 2022 that is consistent with the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. In line with the goal, the government says it will work to strengthen the ICAO CORSIA global carbon offsetting scheme through its review mechanism from 2022 and negotiate for the scheme to continue after its proposed end date in 2035. While CORSIA demonstrated international ambition for aviation to play its part in tackling climate change, there must be continued efforts to reduce the sector’s share of global CO2 emissions, it says in its Aviation 2050 strategy green paper. In the wake of Brexit, the government says it is considering a range of options to manage flights currently covered by the EU ETS.
The green paper published last month covers a wide range of proposed policies that address all aspects of the aviation sector and its future long-term development. The 16-week consultation runs until April 11 and the white paper setting out final policies is expected to be published in the summer.
The 200-page document proposes a framework for future sustainable growth of the UK aviation sector, which the government says faces many challenges, including meeting rising passenger demand while addressing environmental impacts and making the most of new technologies. Effective international environmental technology and operational performance standards are essential to ensuring air travel becomes increasingly sustainable, says the introduction to its initial chapter ‘The role of aviation in a changing world’.
“The government supports the growth of aviation, provided this is done in a sustainable way,” it says, and calls on the sector to do its fair share to tackle the problem of climate change, both domestically and internationally.
UK aviation accounts for around 7% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), but its share of emissions is likely to continue to increase as other sectors decarbonise more quickly. Aviation could represent a 25% share of the total, forecasts the government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC). Demand for aviation has grown significantly since 2010, with passenger numbers increasing by 35%. The growth in numbers during the period at the six London airports alone is the equivalent of a new airport the size of Gatwick, points out the government. However, aircraft movements have only increased by 13% as a result of better utilisation and larger aircraft.
“Growth can have significant environmental impacts which affect local communities and increase emissions. There are also significant infrastructure constraints which require urgent attention, such as the need to modernise our airspace, improve transport links to airports and consider whether new runways are required,” says the green paper. “Therefore, while the government supports continued growth over the next 30 years, it also believes that the UK must be more ambitious on environmental protection to ensure that growth is sustainable.”
However, it commends the aviation industry’s “positive progress” in addressing its impact on climate change and its success in decoupling growth in emissions from continued air traffic demand, noting that between 2010 and 2016, international air transport movements within the UK grew by 20% but international GHGs increased by only 7%.
The government says is backing the CCC’s recommendation that aviation emissions from UK departing flights should be at or below 2005 levels – around 37.5 Mt – in 2050. It also agrees with CCC advice that international aviation emissions should for now continue to be formally excluded from national legally-binding carbon targets but leave “headroom” for international aviation when setting carbon budgets so that the economy as a whole is on a trajectory to meeting the UK’s 2050 Climate Change Act target. The government says it will review revised advice due this spring from the CCC on the implications of the Paris Agreement for the UK’s long-term emissions reductions. “Regular reviews thereafter will broadly align with the setting of carbon budgets,” it adds.
The government wants to continue working closely with industry to maximise opportunities for developing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and says it will work in ICAO towards a global target and market for SAF that are accompanied by robust sustainability criteria covering environmental, social and economic issues.
It also wants to negotiate in ICAO for a strengthened aircraft CO2 standard and a long-term goal that considers aviation’s non-CO2 climate effects, with reviews of the goal as scientific understanding improves. The government proposes to keep non-CO2 emissions under review and reassess the UK’s policy position as more evidence becomes available.
On the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), which currently covers UK domestic flights and flights between UK and EEA airports, the government is considering a range of options post-Brexit. These include continuing to participate in the EU ETS after 2020 or a UK approach “which is at least as ambitious as the current system.”
The Aviation Strategy 2050 consultation comes with a number of accompanying documents, including a report by Prof David Lee of Manchester Metropolitan University that was commissioned by the UK Department for Transport. The report, ‘International aviation and the Paris Agreement temperature goals’, looks at ICAO’s long-term emissions projections, existing ICAO policies and measures on aviation CO2 emissions (including the ICAO CO2 emissions standard; the CORSIA scheme; and the impact of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 (CNG2020) on international emissions). It also considers how ICAO’s goals fit with temperature scenarios of less than 2 degrees C by 2100; the timescales and the role of negative emissions technologies in aviation development; and whether the CNG2020 goal is consistent with the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement.