The Government is widely expected to announce this week that it supports a new runway at Heathrow. Yet in the protracted media and political discussions building up to this decision, the silence about the climate change impact of expansion has been deafening. Given that the last Government that supported a third runway lost a judicial review brought by environmental NGOs on the basis that its airports policy failed to take account of its climate change policy, you might expect at least a plan in place for mitigating the CO2 associated with expansion. Yet despite the Committee on Climate Change repeatedly pointing out the absence of a UK climate change policy for aviation, the Airports Commission made not a single recommendation on how to overcome the climate challenge when it recommended a new Heathrow runway, and the Government has so far had nothing to say on the issue.
Our new briefing, The aviation emissions policy gap: the ongoing need for Government action to deliver the Climate Change Act, argues that:
- Aviation emissions in the UK need to be compatible with the Climate Change Act 2008. The long term target legislated under the Act of an 80% emissions cut should be treated as a minimum level of ambition in light of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
- The advice of the Committee on Climate Change that in order to achieve the requirements of the Act, the Government’s plans and decisions in relation to aviation should reflect the need for the sector’s emissions to be no higher than 37.5 Mt by 2050 must therefore similarly be regarded as a minimum level of ambition.
- The Government must act urgently on the CCC’s repeated advice to draw up an effective policy plan for aviation emissions. The global carbon offsetting scheme for aviation that was agreed in October 2016 at the UN, while representing a worthwhile step forward, will be unable to deliver the UK’s commitments without additional policy action.
- Since airport expansion will exacerbate the scale of this challenge, the Government should rule out new runways unless they can be demonstrated to be compatible with such an effective UK aviation emissions plan.