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New research published today (Wednesday 1st June) by Friends of the Earth, carried out by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, shows that unless the Government takes action to reduce the growth in aviation emissions the industry's emissions will wipe out all the savings that other sectors of the economy could make.

The research shows that UK reduction targets will be almost impossible to meet if aviation emissions continue to grow at the rate predicted by the Tyndall Centre [1]. Friends of the Earth is campaigning for a law to cut carbon emissions by three per cent every year, to ensure that targets are met [2].

Tyndall, the UK's leading independent climate change research body, concludes that if aviation growth continues, it could take up the entire emissions budget for all sectors of the EU economy by 2040 and all sectors of the UK economy by 2037, if we are to keep within safe limits [3]. This would mean that schools, hospitals, commerce, houses and industry would not be able to release any emissions if the UK and the EU are to stay within environmental limits. Friends of the Earth described such a scenario as "absurd, unjust and unachievable".

The research looked at growth trends in the aviation industry and calculated that emissions from the sector would rise rapidly between now and 2050, assuming these trends continued. It also took account of the way in which air transport markets mature and assumed that significant improvements in fuel efficiencies would be achieved.

The report concludes that there will be: "severe consequences for both the UK and the EU in terms of meeting their obligations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions… if European governments continue to permit, or indeed promote, historically high levels of aviation growth."

Friends of the Earth believes that if the Government allows the aviation sector to grow according to its forecasts, it will find it politically impossible to achieve its own 60% CO2 reduction target. Friends of the Earth is calling for the Government to withdraw its Aviation White Paper and introduce the economic measures and sector targets to achieve stabilisation of CO2 at 450ppm by 2050.

Friends of the Earth's Aviation Campaigner Richard Dyer said:

"The biggest question this generation faces is how we tackle climate change. The Government must support the Climate Change Bill and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by three per cent a year. This will need tough action on aviation, as well as other sectors. This report paints a devastating picture of the future impact of uncontrolled aviation growth for the environment. Decision makers in both the UK and the EU must face up to the fact that tackling climate change means tackling the demand for aviation."

Climate change is the most pressing environmental issue facing humanity. Tony Blair recently described it as "a challenge so far reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power, that it alters radically human existence" [4].

Aviation is a rapidly growing industry and the fastest growing source of climate changing emissions.

The UK Government in its 2003 Air Transport White Paper The Future of Air Transport chose to promote long-term growth in air travel. The White Paper also made bringing intra-EU aviation into the existing EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) its key policy to reduce climate emissions from the sector. This is one option that the EU is considering, but it is also discussing taxes and emissions charges. The Commission is due to communicate its views on the policy options in the summer of 2005.

Friends of the Earth believes that the UK Government should act immediately by increasing Air Passenger Duty, removing VAT and Kerosene tax exemptions on domestic flights and by pressing for effective EU measures starting with an emissions charge [5].


Photo opportunity

13.30 (Brussels time) Esplanade, in front of Charlemagne Building, Rue de la Loi, Brussels.

Environment Commisioner Stavros Dimas will be presented with a copy of the research by Friends of the Earth campaigners in front of a giant inflatable carbon dinosaur in Brussels as part of `Green Week' on 1st June - further details available from press office.

Presentation to MPs Wed 8th June

Tyndall and Friends of the Earth will present the reports findings to MPs and Peers from all political parties at Westminster at 9.30am on Wednesday June 8th - further details from the press office.


A summary of the Tyndall report is available at:-

[1] In the 2003 Energy White Paper UK Government committed to a 60% cut in CO2 emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. This target did not include emissions from international aviation as there is no international agreement on allocating their responsibility to nation states. Tyndall have assumed that the UK accepts responsibility for 50% of all international arrivals and departures an assumption also used by the Department for Transport in its technical paper `Aviation and Global Warming - Jan 2004' see:-

[3] This calculation assumes that the EU adopted a 450ppmv 2050 carbon concentration target. The report found this to be a safer target that would be compatible with the 1996 European Council target to limit temperature rise from climate change to 20 C.

The research concludes that if aviation growth continues, it could take up the entire emissions budget for all sectors of the EU economy by 2040, and similarly for the UK by 2037, based on an atmospheric stabilisation target of 450 parts per million by volume (ppmV). Moreover, between 2010 and 2020, UK and EU aviation emissions could already be equivalent to their respective 2050 targets. This means that from 2020 onwards no sector would be able to grow its emissions (unless compensated outside of the EU system).

Tyndall looked at current growth trends for aviation and then compared this emissions growth with the declining profiles of total emissions under a contraction and convergence climate policy. They also looked at the implications of this growth for other sectors of the UK economy and for the EU emissions trading system (ETS).

Contract and convergence (C&C) is a policy increasingly recommended for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change it would require industrialised nations to make substantial cuts in their emissions, while permitting some industrialising countries to increase theirs within the equal level per capita objective. C&C has been supported explicitly by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) and implicitly by the UK Government in its 2003 Energy White Paper. Friends of the Earth believes that Contraction and Convergence under-estimates the cuts needed in developed countries because it fails to take into account responsibilities for historic emissions. The G8 richest countries are responsible for around two-thirds of historic carbon dioxide emissions.

Growth scenarios for EU and UK aviation - Full report

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.


Published by Friends of the Earth Trust