Aviation and carbon targets
44. The Government has made it clear that the 60%
carbon reduction target for 2050 applies only to UK domestic emissions,
as there has been no agreement as yet on how international aviation
emissions should be allocated to national inventories. We set
out below the forecast increase in aviation (including the effect
of radiative forcing) compared to the reduction in all UK domestic
emissions which would be required in order to meet the 60% carbon
reduction target which the Government set last year.
Source: Environmental Audit Committee
45. The graph demonstrates clearly that, if aviation
were to be included in domestic emissions under either an EU ETS
or subsequently an international ETS, there is no possibility
of the UK achieving a 60% reduction in carbon by 2050. If aviation
emissions are simply added to both the baseline and the target,
effectively watering it down, the actual level of emissions reductions
which could be achieved by 2050 would only be about 35%.
Even this assumes that the rest of the UK economy actually
achieves the domestic carbon reduction target of 60%. 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.
The price of carbon could, in such circumstances, go through
the roofprovided there was sufficient political will to
maintain targets and enforce penalties.
46. We asked the Secretary of State about the impact
of including international aviation emissions within domestic
inventories. His official admitted thatwere this to happenthe
60% target would need to be reconsidered:
it is decided that international
aviation emissions should be allocated to states, say split 50/50
between country of origin and country of destination so you are
bringing international aviation emissions into domestic emissions
inventories, then, other things being equal, you would need to
look at your overall domestic emissions reduction target because
you are adding in a whole new set of emissions. In that sense,
yes, you are right. You would probably want to look at that
47. Indeed, the Secretary of State himself acknowledged
this specifically at one point in his evidence to us:
Q354 Chairman: But you do accept that the two
are intimately related? You cannot include aviation without it
having an impact on domestic targets.
Mr Darling: Yes.
He went on to suggest that any subsequent decision
on how to deal with this would be a political matter, and that
it would be premature to consider these things now.
But his argument had already been contradicted by his official's
admission that modelling work on cross-sectoral impacts was essential
if aviation is to be incorporated in emissions trading schemes.
48. The 60% target stems from the seminal report
on energy and climate change which the Royal Commission on Environmental
Pollution published in 2000. It was based on the application
of a contraction and convergence approach to reduce the rate of
increase of emissions globally. To the extent that such an approach
might actually understate the share of international aviation
emissions which the UK might be obliged to adopt, the scale of
the problem might even be greater. But we would be concerned
if the Government attempted to argue that aviation must remain
a special case and outside the scope of the target reduction,
as this would contravene the spirit of the RCEP recommendation.
We would also be concerned if the Government were to turn to
the extensive use of the Kyoto "flexible mechanisms"in
particular, the Clean Development Mechanismas a way of
obtaining large apparent emissions reductions without reducing
domestic emissions significantly.
49. Nor should the Government hope that technology
will provide a way out of the impasse it faces. The figures we
have used in our analysis are based on DfT's latest forecasts
which incorporate optimistic allowances for technological improvements.
However, both the DfT and the Treasury continue to place considerable
reliance on efficiency improvements in air transport; while the
Prime Minister himself stated in the evidence he gave to the Liaison
Committee that he expected the G8 to take forward this agenda
next year. The
aviation White Paper misleadingly states that "research
targets agreed by ACARE
suggest that a 50% reduction in CO2 production by 2020 can be
achieved." Yet ACARE themselves say that:
"The 2020 targets will not be achieved by
developments of the current engine architecture and more radical
changes will be required"; and that "the consensus view
is that the rate of progress for conventional engines will slow
down significantly in the next 10 years. To maintain the same
rate of progress as today to 2020 and beyond will require breakthrough
technologies and consequently higher risk approaches."
50. 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%. The DfT admitted that the target would need to be looked
at should international emissions be allocated to national inventoriesand
this can only mean with a view to watering it down.
51. The Government should recognise the difficulties
it faces in meeting its long-term carbon targets. If it did so,
it would be forced to take more action now and develop an adequate
policy response. It should not continue to hope that the solution
lies in technological advances as the weight of evidence suggests
that the scope for these is limited.