skip to content | Accessibility Information

UK Committee on Climate Change report

Published: 8th December 2009

Image for UK Committee on Climate Change report

ONE of the scientists behind today’s long-awaited report of the Committee on Climate Change, says more effort needs to be made to reduce emissions from aviation.

The committee chaired by Lord Adair Turner suggests that higher flight taxes will be necessary to choke off demand for air travel, which is predicted to grow by 200% by 2050.

Professor David Lee of MMU’s Centre for Air Transport and the Environment (CATE) who was appointed as Expert Adviser to the Committee reveals that business-as-usual projected growth in aviation emissions is not compatible with the UK’s carbon targets, and that more strident efforts must be taken to reduce emissions.

Professor Lee, whose research forms the basis for parts of the reports, said: "The report conclusively shows that more effort needs to be made to reduce aviation’s emissions; there are a number of means including technology, use of biofuels and videoconferencing – but these efforts may not be enough."

Options limited

Various options were studied by the Committee but it concluded that only significant changes in policy and investment could stimulate the emissions reductions necessary, but that these are still unlikely to achieve the Government’s target of reducing 2050 emissions to 2005 levels.

Growth in aviation emissions will be the subject of discussions at the Climate Conference in Copenhagen where 192 countries are attempting to curb the causes of made-made global warming.

"A ‘technological fix’ is simply not possible, given the emissions projections, and the Committee accordingly projects a 60% growth limit to UK aviation emissions", said Prof Lee, who says the public should not be distracted by rows between scientists.

Mass of evidence

"Despite the distracting furore over deliberate misinterpretation of private emails between scientists, the public should remember that the evidence for climate change does not rest alone on one temperature trend dataset – but on a plethora of other very real indicators such as sea-level rise, snow and ice retreat in the Arctic, and many biological indicators."

"Whilst aviation is argued to be a small component of carbon dioxide emissions, the current science indicates that non-CO2 effects can double this, and the Committee’s report plus our own published analyses at CATE show that these emissions will be a significant fraction by 2050 that will put undue pressure on other sectors if no action is taken."

The report acknowledges that fuel efficiency and operational improvements by airlines are likely to result in a 30% reduction in carbon per passenger kilometre, and that biofuels could account for 10% of aviation fuel in 2050, but predicts a 200% growth in flying.

In February, the International Civil Aviation Organization’s environmental committee will have its triennial meeting at which ICAO’s response to the mandate of Copenhagen will be discussed. Prof. Lee will attend the ICAO meeting as an official UK Government adviser and also as the World Meteorological Organization’s representative.

See the full report here