Environmental Audit Committee

15 March 2004 Report publication

15 March 2004 Report publication

Pre-Budget 2003: Aviation follow-up

Airport expansion will make CO2 pledge meaningless

If international aviation emissions are included in national greenhouse gas inventories as part of an emissions trading system, there is no possibility that the UK can meet the 60% carbon reduction target which the Government set last year.  The most the UK could hope to achieve in terms of an overall reduction in carbon dioxide will be 35%.  This is one of the key findings of the report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee.

The accompanying graph demonstrates the huge forecast increase in aviation emissions which the DfT is predicting, compared to the decrease in UK domestic emissions required to meet the target.   It is based on DfT's own data and takes into account the extra impact aviation emissions have on global warming (the 'radiative forcing' effect).

The report examines the implications of the Aviation White Paper and the policy the Government is adopting to deal with the global environmental impacts of aviation.  It also takes account of the Government response to the Committee's previous report on this subject.   Some of the key conclusions of the report are printed overleaf.

The Committee has also  taken evidence on other aspects relating to the Treasury's environmental tax and spending strategy and will give further consideration to these issues following the 2004 Budget.

For further information on the Committee's report, journalists may phone the Chairman of the Committee, Peter Ainsworth on 020-7219-5078, or committee staff (Eric Lewis) on 20-7219-1378.

 Key findings of the report

Key conclusions and recommendations from the Committee's report are these:

• We agree with the Chief Scientist that climate change is a profoundly serious threat to mankind.   The Government has in principle accepted our recommendation that specific consideration must be given in policy appraisals to the impact on carbon targets.   It must ensure that this priority is in future fully reflected in appraisals conducted by all Government departments.

• The DfT has forecast future demand and then provided the framework to meet practically all of it.   It is actively promoting growth on the scale envisaged, and indeed the urgency with which it is requiring airport operators to implement expansion plans bears this out.

• On the key issue of the impact of aviation on global warming, the White Paper contains no specific proposals apart from the commitment to work towards the inclusion of aviation in the second phase of the European Emissions Trading Scheme from 2008.

• We are astonished at the lack of essential research to underpin the incorporation of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).  In view of the timescales involved in developing and ratifying EU directives, we suspect it may soon be too late to achieve the Government's professed intention of incorporating aviation in the second phase of the EU ETS from 2008.

• It is inconceivable that any emissions trading system could generate sufficient credits to allow aviation to expand as forecast, while at the same time delivering carbon reductions of the order needed.

• If aviation emissions increase on the scale predicted by the DfT, the UK's 60% carbon emission reduction target which the Government set last year will become meaningless and unachievable.  The most we could hope to attain would be about 35%.

Notes for Editors

1. The report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee is their Third Report of Session 2003-04, Pre-Budget Report 2003:  Aviation follow-up, HC 233-I.   Volume II of the report, containing the oral and written evidence, will be published shortly.  Details of all the Committee's press releases and inquiries, together with its Reports and other publications, are available on the Committee's Internet home page.

2. The Committee regularly examines the progress of the Treasury on incorporating environmental objectives in tax and spending policies.  In its report last year, Budget 2003 and Aviation,  HC 672 of Session 2002-03 (July 2003),  the Committee explored the impact on global warming of the forecast growth in air travel, and the conceptual and practical difficulties in valuing environmental impacts.   It also highlighted the absence of any fiscal instruments to moderate the growth in air travel.  The Government's response to the EAC report was delayed until the publication of the aviation White Paper, The Future of Air Transport, on 16 December 2003.