PDF Icon Aviation, climate change and sharing the load

The charity, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has published the report, ‘Aviation, climate change and sharing the load’. The report argues that the Airports Commission’s recommendation that the development of a new runway in a the south east of England would still be compliant with the UK Climate Change Act assumes that aviation emissions will be constrained by regulatory measures. But the report’s authors argue that the regulatory regime is still aspirational. It states that ‘we are therefore basing our decision to build a new runway on a world as we would like it to be – rather than as it currently exists’. The report concludes that, in order to comply with the Climate Change Act, the only options are to manage future demand by increasing the cost of carbon which would see fares soar to unrealistically high levels or constrain capacity at airports by ruling out any new runways.

The report authors argue that:

  • It is essential that aviation contributes its fair share to our overall climate change goals. However, we are currently on course to fail to meet our climate change target for aviation and likely our overall goals as there are no controls on emissions from international flights.
  • An international agreement being reached to control aviation emissions is far from certain.
  • Direct unilateral regulation of aviation in the UK would be exorbitant (up to £600/tonne of CO2) and therefore politically unfeasible.
  • All of the guidance we have on emissions from aviation is based on the world as we would like it to be (with controlled emissions) rather than as it is (without).
  • Controlling airport capacity is the only viable policy lever available to the UK government to directly restrict aviation emissions in the absence of a trading scheme.
  • Uncontrolled expansion of aviation emissions will have a significant impact on the UK’s ability to meet it’s carbon targets. Our best current estimate is that not controlling aviation emissions would penalise the rest of the economy with a potential cost of between £1 billion and £8.4 billion per year but the real cost is probably higher.