UK will miss emissions targets while aviation continues to soar

Homes, transport and industry would all need to become carbon neutral to meet Government targets for 2050 if pollution from planes is allowed to continue to undermine emission-cutting plans.

These are the findings of Manchester University’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change.

According to researchers at the centre the growing aviation industry’s carbon dioxide emissions are so significant they would completely undermine the whole process and throw it into chaos if included in Government targets.

Even if the industry’s growth was halved, says the centre, the rest of the economy would have to slash its carbon emissions to far below the 40% of today’s levels currently proposed.

“If the UK government does not curb aviation growth, all other sectors of the economy will eventually be forced to become carbon neutral,” said Dr Kevin Anderson who led the research.

“It will undermine the international competitiveness of UK industry.”

Aviation is especially polluting because planes burn vast amounts of kerosene fuel at high altitudes.
The sector has grown rapidly since the launch of low-fare airlines created a huge surge in demand.

Predictions suggest the current thirst for cheap flights is just the tip of the iceberg and the Government’s Aviation White Paper states that UK passenger numbers are likely to more than double from 180 million to 475 million over the next 25 years.

These findings are part of a five year study, Decarbonising the UK by the Tyndall Centre that sets out an agenda for CO2 emissions over the next 45 years by detailing the actions that need to be taken by Government and industry.

The study concludes that:

  • Improvements in energy efficiency can dramatically decarbonise many sectors.
  • Introducing policies to reduce energy demand might be a more effective first step than implementing a supply from low-carbon sources.
  • Supplying low-carbon energy is both technically and economically viable.
  • A society with high energy demand will face challenges in having the infrastructure to provide a reliable energy supply in the future.
  • A low-carbon society does not necessarily preclude increases in personal travel.
  • Government must implement and enforce minimum energy standards.
  • Allocating carbon fairly between the rich and poor needs innovative policies and mechanisms.
  • All sectors must be included in any carbon-reduction strategy and leaving international aviation and marine emissions out of carbon reduction targets makes little sense.

    Friends of the Earth have described the study as a wake-up call for Government.

    “This study could not have come at a more critical time in the debate about
    how we tackle the growing threat of climate change,” said Duncan McLaren, chief executive of the charity in Scotland.

    “Unless coordinated action is taken drive down energy use, and to begin cutting emissions in all sectors including aviation then we will face a future where even more drastic action will be required.”

    By Sam Bond

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