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WWF - Government leaves future aviation policy in the dark

WWF expressed disappointment that yesterday’s long-awaited 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 focussed on what the Government might do rather than what they will do.

The CCC’s report (published in December 2009) 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, yesterday’s Government statement failed to endorse these recommendations. Although the Government does acknowledge that any growth in aviation must be accompanied by emissions reductions, their response suggests a worrying 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 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 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 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.
Notes to the editor:
1.    The CCC’s ‘likely scenario’ allows for a 60% increase in aviation demand between 2005 and 2050 in comparison to  the previous Government’s policy that would have allowed 115% increase in demand over the same period (http://www.theccc.org.uk/reports/aviation-report). 
2.    The CCC’s report also recommends that aviation emissions return to 2005 levels (37.5 MtCO2) by 2050. The Government’s response does not tacitly accept these figures although their Marginal Abatement Cost (MAC) curve assessment suggests they could be achieved, albeit with a heavy reliance on biofuels.
3.    The CCC said it would not be prudent to base aviation policy on more than 10% biofuels penetration by 2050. Yet the Government’s response suggests that 20% biofuels could be mandated by 2050. WWF believes that the sustainable supply of biofuels is a key issue and therefore a precautionary approach should be taken.
4.    London City, Farnborough and Southend airports have all recently been given permission to expand; Bristol and Birmingham International airports are also seeking permission to expand.
5.    WWF’s Moving On report with FTSE 500 companies shows that 89% of companies thought that greater use of videoconferencing has had an impact in reducing their business flying. On average, companies had cut flights by 12% in the last two years due to videoconferencing alone. So long as videoconferencing is introduced as part of a business travel policy to reduce flying, WWF believes that videoconferencing could replace 30% of business flights by 2050.
For further information, please contact:
George Smeeton, Tel: 01483 412 388, Mob: 07917 052 948, email: GSmeeton@wwf.org.uk

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