UK Government provides weak response to recommendations on reducing aviation emissions

August 25th, 2011 by WWF

A Flybe aircaft overhead (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

WWF expresses disappointment that the long-awaited UK Government response to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on their recommendations for reducing aviation emissions has shed little light on future aviation policy. Instead, their response focusses on what the UK Government might do rather than what they will do.

The CCC’s December 2009 Aviation report shows the actions necessary to ensure that a reduction in aviation emissions is in line with the UK climate change targets. To achieve this, the CCC recommends that aviation emissions return to 2005 levels by 2050. They also state that their ‘likely scenario’, which allows far lower levels of aviation growth than previously planned, should form the basis for future Government aviation policy.

However, the UK Government’s statement fails to endorse these recommendations. Although the Government does acknowledge that any growth in aviation must be accompanied by emissions reductions, their response suggests a lack of commitment to include aviation emissions, the UK’s fastest growing source of CO2, within the Climate Change Act or to acknowledge the importance of setting a national target to bring down aviation emissions.

WWF is also uncomfortable with the Government’s projected heavy reliance on aviation biofuels. It is likely that there will be a limit on the amount of available sustainable biofuels that we can use and, therefore, they should not be viewed as a silver bullet in reducing emissions.

WWF said that it is in addition disappointing that the UK Government’s analysis is so negative regarding the potential for videoconferencing to reduce levels of flying and emissions, despite WWF’s strong evidence to the contrary.

Jean Leston, Acting Head of Transport Policy at WWF-UK, said: “It’s a shame that the Government has not taken this opportunity to set a UK target on aviation emissions. Our efforts to tackle climate change rely on aviation making real reductions. The UK Government’s indecision will only lead to more confusion and allow airport expansion to continue.

“Already local airports are seeing this as a great time to expand because there is no clear policy in place to stop them. Before the final policy is established, WWF hopes that the UK Government will include all aviation emissions, international and domestic, within the Climate Change Act and set a firm target for aviation which caps emissions and limits growth.”

WWF believes that future aviation policy should rely more on demand reduction than technology fixes to bring down aviation emissions. Making the most of available capacity, introducing carbon caps, shifting from plane to train for domestic and short haul flights, and using more videoconferencing should be our top priorities for reducing aviation emissions. Sustainable biofuels can only help in reducing residual emissions once these measures have been taken.

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