2.5 Contradictory carbon reduction policies: the case of aviation

In the UK and wider EU, examples can also be seen where carbon reduction policies are not matched by policies in other sectors. For example, in 2007, the USA and EU signed an ‘open skies’ agreement deregulating aviation and having the potential to increase greatly the sector's emissions – despite the EU developing strict emissions reduction targets. Similarly, the DECC notes in its ‘Road to Copenhagen’ the importance of COP15 and the need to tackle climate change.

Meanwhile, the 2003 Aviation White Paper sets out the Government's aviation policy until 2030 and predicts a near trebling in the number of passengers using UK airports. If aviation expanded according to the paper, by 2050 its increased emissions could cancel out all the carbon savings made from other sources, rendering it impossible to meet even the old 60% reduction target, let alone the new stricter 80% requirement. Aviation is the fastest growing contributor to anthropogenic climate change, and the independent Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research estimated that aviation emissions could account for up to half of all UK emissions by 2050. In January 2009, the UK Government decided to back a proposed third runway at Heathrow despite the large increases in carbon emissions that would result in Heathrow being the UK's largest source of GHG emissions. This has led to considerable opposition from environmental groups; example links are given below. Following the announcement, the CCC was asked to conduct a review of UK aviation emissions to 2050 by the Secretary of State for Transport, Geoff Hoon.

The aviation report is due by December 2009 and will look at:

  • UK aviation demand and emissions – projection of UK aviation demand and emissions up to 2050, including the scope for switching from domestic and EU flights to rail

  • improving the carbon efficiency of planes

  • use of biofuels and hydrogen in aviation

  • elements of a global deal on aviation – the CCC will consider what a global framework to reduce aviation emissions might look like, including a global cap-and-trade scheme in the context of a (post-Kyoto) agreement to reduce global emissions.

Activity 7

  • Given the current emissions reductions targets and urgency of action, why do you think the UK Government would support a carbon-intensive development such as Heathrow? Are all policy sectors given equal weight?

  • Following on from this, at an EU level there is concern about the influence of corporate lobbyists on policy, including action on climate change. Using the information available on the websites of Electioncampaign.eu and Alter-EU.org, consider how the lobbying system might be reformed to prevent undue corporate influence on climate change policies.

2.4 Contradictory carbon reduction policies: biofuel targets

2.6 Contradictory carbon reduction policies: coal