Aviation should be included in UK targets to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050, advises climate watchdog
Thu 9 Oct 2008 – The Committee on Climate Change, an independent watchdog set up to advise the UK Government on climate change policy, has recommended that a proposed legally binding target to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 should be increased to 80%. The committee says aviation and shipping emissions, which had been previously excluded, should now be included in the overall target.
However, the committee accepts the difficulties in measuring the UK’s share of international emissions in these sectors and their ability to deliver the necessary deep cuts.
This would mean aviation and shipping emissions would have to be compensated by even greater reductions in other sectors. The UK would therefore have to abandon fossil fuel power generation by 2030, the committee’s chairman, Lord Turner, told The Guardian newspaper. “We have to almost totally decarbonize the power sector by 2030, well before 2050,” he warned.
Although aviation and shipping should not be part of the legally binding interim budgets that the committee will be required to report on each year, they would be part of a national target, which, he said, would “absolutely end up with an equal level of scrutiny”.
The committee also advises that other greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide be included in the target.
Environmental NGOs such as Friends of the Earth, which had been pushing for the higher target, welcomed the committee’s advice as “fantastic news” but said there must be a future commitment to include aviation and shipping in the legally binding process.
“We cannot afford to ignore pollution from international aviation and shipping – that would be like going on a calorie-controlled diet and ignoring the calories from chocolate bars,” said FoE’s Executive Director, Andy Atkins.
Tim Johnson, Director of the Aviation Environment Federation said: “We welcome the fact that the committee wants the UK’s aviation emissions to be taken into account by 2050. To do otherwise would have undermined the credibility of the whole strategy. But we haven’t yet seen any plan for how the Government can achieve this. The longer we go on allowing aviation emissions to grow, without including them in our carbon budgets, the harder it will become to make the big 80% emissions cut by 2050 that experts are saying is essential.”
The committee’s advice was contained in an interim report to the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Milliband, before a full report is delivered at the beginning of December. The new department was created a week ago to stress a greater commitment by the Government towards environmental and climate change affairs. Ed Milliband is the brother of Foreign Secretary David Milliband and a close ally of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The advice from the Climate Change Committee uncomfortably coincides with an announcement from the Secretary of State for Transport that the Government has agreed to a 10% increase in the number of flights to and from London’s Stansted Airport in a year from 241,000 to 264,000 air traffic movements and an increase in the maximum number of passengers using the airport from 25 million to 35 million per annum. The move is a response to a perceived urgent need for more capacity in the south-east of the country.
“We recognize that there have been strong views expressed about Stansted’s expansion and all views were given the chance to be heard at the public inquiry,” commented Aviation Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick. “Ministers thought long and hard about the case before making their decision.
“Air travel is essential to the United Kingdom’s economy and to our continued prosperity. The aviation industry directly employs 200,000 people with a further 600,000 jobs supported indirectly.”
London’s City Airport has also received approval to increase flights by 50%, from 80,000 to 120,000 per year.