Under the Climate Change Act, ministers have until the end of this year to decide if they will include aviation and shipping in the UK’s long term carbon targets. On Thursday just how green the government is will be seen when advisors will be urging ministers to include emissions from aviation and shipping in the UK’s targets.
The Act requires that emissions be cut by 80% by 2050 and if aviation and shipping emissions are included it will so much harder to meet the target. These two sectors were left out when the Act was passed in 2008 because they are not included in international targets. This is because it is difficult to apportion them to different countries.
Also companies could try and avoid restrictions on them for example by docking at different ports or using different airports. But aviation and shipping are big contributors to rising greenhouse gas emissions. The EU wants to include aviation emissions in it’s’ emissions trading scheme but has encountered opposition from airlines in a host of countries including the US and China.
Ministers know this is, politically, a very sensitive issue not least because they do not really want to risk losing public support because of rising costs of flying. Many people take advantage of the low cost flights that budget airlines offer and if these were to end or increase substantially there would be a public outcry. Also there is skepticism in the Tory ranks about climate change, some of it quite open.
Others think that including aviation emissions need not necessarily mean costlier or less flights. They say that the aviation industry will still be able to expand without the need to pass on punitive price rises to the customer. They can do this providing emissions from other sectors like industry, power and energy producing plants and residential buildings are cut as well and also keep in line with the long term goals.
Some ministers say that not accepting the proposal to include aviation and shipping would mean that they were not taking the issue seriously but if they are included it means that in the period of 2023-2027 the allowable equivalent amount of carbon emissions would need to go up 200 megatonnes, rising from 1950 to 2150 megatonnes. So it looks to be an interesting day on Thursday to see just what ministers will do.