Climate targets: UK committee stresses need to tackle greenhouse gas emissions

The committee’s chairman to transport secretary, Grant Shapps, Lord Deben has said growth in demand for flights must be curbed to tackle greenhouse gas emissions as part of the UK’s climate targets.

The recommendations come in a letter  including international aviation and shipping emissions in the UK’s targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero overall by 2050.

The letter said aviation was likely to be the largest emitting sector in the UK by 2050, even with strong progress on technology to provide greener fuels and limiting demand for international flights.

Extra levies on those who fly frequently, reformed taxes or a price on carbon and management of the amount of airport capacity in the UK are among the potential measures suggested by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

They are needed to limit the growth in demand for flights to no more than 25 per cent above current levels by 2050 as part of efforts to reduce the UK’s emissions to net zero by mid-century, the committee said.

It warned the government it needed to assess its strategy for providing airport capacity in the context of cutting emissions, and make sure investments make “economic sense” in a net-zero world.

Current planned additional capacity in London, including a third runway at Heathrow “is likely to leave at most very limited room for growth at non-London airports”, the committee said.

Including the emissions in the legally-binding net zero target emissions will show the scale of deployment needed for measures to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to offset the emissions caused by flying.

As far as shipping is concerned, the committee said net zero was likely to be feasible and cost-effective through use of alternative fuels, such as hydrogen or ammonia.

“Now is the time to bring the UK’s international aviation and shipping emissions formally within the UK’s net-zero target,” said CCC chief executive, Chris Stark. “These are real emissions, requiring a credible plan to manage them to net-zero by 2050.

“Their inclusion in the UK target will complement international approaches and increase confidence that the Government is prioritising their reduction, ensuring the net-zero target covers all of the UK’s emissions.

As the UK prepares to host the next major climate summit in 2020, we are well placed to show global leadership on this fundamental issue of international concern.”

He said the government was talking up electric planes, which should be an innovation priority, but the potential for technology to contribute to carbon cuts in a short time frame was limited.

The CCC make it very clear that growth in demand for flights from UK airports cannot continue unchecked. That’s why we need to introduce a frequent levy .

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