All householders, motorists and businesses will have to reduce their carbon dioxide pollution to zero if the
growing aviation industry is to be incorporated into Government climate change targets for 2050 reveals
new research from the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The report shows that even if
aviation’s current growth is halved from today’s level, the rest of the economy will require carbon dioxide
cuts far beyond Government targets.
“If the UK government does not curb aviation growth, all other sectors of the economy will eventually be
forced to become carbon neutral. It will undermine the international competitiveness of UK industry”, says
Dr Kevin Anderson who led the research at the Tyndall Centre at Manchester University.
Aviation is especially polluting because planes burn vast amounts of kerosene fuel at high altitudes. Its
rapid growth stems from falling ticket prices and increasing passenger demand. The Government’s
Aviation White Paper predicts that UK passenger numbers will more than double from 180 million to 475
million over the next 25 years.
These new findings are part of a five year comprehensive study by the Tyndall Centre that sets-out a farreaching
agenda for cutting carbon dioxide emissions over the next 45 years by detailing the actions that
need to be taken by Government and industry. The new report, called Decarbonising the UK, describes
pathways for cutting carbon dioxide emissions from road transport, housing, industry and coal-fired power
stations and the role of renewable energy, nuclear power and hydrogen fuel in providing low-carbon
energy supply. The report also considers the potential of policy instruments to cut carbon dioxide, such as
the newly proposed scheme of citizen’s carbon permits.
The Government’s target of a 60% cut in carbon dioxide by 2050 is based upon the amount of carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists say is safe to avoid dangerous climate change. More recent
research suggests that the global 60% target may have to be increased to 90%.
“No one is underestimating the challenge of implementing policies to deal with climate change, but the
failure of all governments to think about international aviation and shipping has led to a serious
underestimation of the actions necessary.” says Dr Simon Shackley at the Tyndall Centre and
Manchester University. “The Government’s EU and G8 Presidencies should press for aviation and
shipping emissions to be included in national accounts of carbon dioxide emissions”.
Decarbonising the UK is the first study to combine carbon dioxide emissions from the UK’s energy
infrastructure, buildings and industry with those from air, sea and land transport. It is unique in
incorporating the different perspectives of energy analysts, engineers, economists and social and
environmental scientists into a wide understanding of how the UK Government can achieve its 60%
carbon dioxide reduction. Their main conclusions include:
− Improvements in energy efficiency can dramatically decarbonise many sectors
− Policies for reducing energy demand are a more flexible tool than implementing low-carbon supplies
− Supplying low-carbon energy is both technically and economically viable
− A society with high energy demand will face future infrastructural challenges in providing secure energy
− 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
− International aviation and marine emissions must be included in carbon reduction targets, now!
The researchers strongly emphasise the truly urgent need for coherent and crosscutting climate policy
spanning key Government departments including DEFRA, DfT, DTI, HM Treasury and ODPM.