Raise carbon price to address aviation emissions, says Airports Commission

  • 01 Jul 2015, 14:45
  • Sophie Yeo
Heathrow airport departures sign with a plane in the sky

Heathrow airport | Shutterstock

The Airports Commission has  recommended a third runway at Heathrow, advising that this is the best way to expand the UK's aviation sector.

While some, such as  Chancellor George Osborne, have focused on the boost that airport expansion could bring to the UK's economy, others have expressed doubt over whether the UK can simultaneously cater for increased demand for flights and hit its legally binding emissions targets.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has recommended that, in order for the UK to cut its emissions 80% by 2050, emissions from aviation must be limited to 2005 levels. At this time, the sector emitted 37.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

In February 2013, CCC chairman Lord Deben  wrote to Howard Davies, the head of the commission, to highlight the limitations imposed on the aviation industry by the need to constrain its carbon emissions.

Davies has attempted to alleviate Deben's climate concerns in a  letter published today alongside the final commission report.

An exchange of views

Research by the commission in preparation for the report reveals the difficulties of expanding the UK's airport capacity and staying within the 37.5MtCO2 cap.

A new runway at either Heathrow and Gatwick would push the UK's aviation sector beyond this limit - although Heathrow expansion would do so by a wider margin. Carbon Brief has already  explained the consequences in detail.

In his letter to Davies, Deben wrote:

"Aviation emissions at 2005 levels could be achieved with fuel and operational efficiency improvements, use of sustainable biofuels and by limiting demand growth to around 60% by 2050 compared to 2005."

But limiting growth to 60% is easier said than done. The CCC  says that the number of passengers travelling by aeroplane could grow by more than 200% if airport expansion is unconstrained and there is no attempt to put a price on carbon.

With some constraints and a carbon price of £200 per tonne of CO2 by 2050, growth in demand could be limited to 115% says the CCC - but this is still almost double its target.


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Daily Briefing | China climate change plan unveiled

  • 01 Jul 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Coal-fired power plant in China

Coal-fired power plant | Shutterstock

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Climate pledge puts China on course to peak emissions as early as 2027 
China's pledge to the UN to cut its emissions intensity by 60-65% by 2030 could see the country peak its emissions by 2027 - ahead of its self-imposed 2030 peaking goal - if it hits the top end of this range, analysis by Carbon Brief shows.      Carbon Brief 

Explainer: Aviation's battle to limit rising emissions 
As the Airports Commission recommends a third runway at Heathrow, Carbon Brief looks at the climate implications of the expanding aviation sector in the UK and across the globe.      Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

China climate change plan unveiled 
China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has made its pledge - or "intended nationally determined contribution" - to the UN. In a statement following a meeting of Premier Li Keqiang and Francois Hollande, China said it would reduce its emissions intensity by 60-65% by 2030 from 2005 levels. It is also targeting an increase in the share of non-fossil fuels in its primary energy consumption to about 20% by 2030. BBC science editor David Shukman said it was a "significant moment" but that it does not mean China will stop using fossil fuels any time soon. The Guardian says this means increasing installed wind capacity to 200GW and solar to around 100GW. The New York Times says the decision will be closely scrutinised by policymakers "especially in Washington". Reuters points out that China has not said the level at which its emissions will peak. China's announcement also failed to impress Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop - The Guardian reports her comments that China's position has been known "for some time".      BBC News 

Brazil announces massive reforestation and renewable energy plan with US
A meeting of Barack Obama and Dilma Rousseff has yielded a joint statement from the US and Brazil over efforts to tackle climate change. The two countries have pledged to increase the share of electricity derived from renewables to 20% by 2030. Brazil also committed to restoring 12m hectares of forest. The Financial Times points out the targets could face obstacles in the US, as it depends on Obama's plan to cut emissions from power plants, which faces legal and political challenges. Reuters reports that, in a press conference, Rousseff pledged "zero deforestation" by 2030, although the statement itself focuses on stemming only illegal deforestation. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times highlight that, combined with the China announcement, yesterday was a significant moment for climate action.    The Guardian 

U.S. walrus protections hit Shell's Arctic drilling plan 
The US administration has dealt a blow to Shell's plans to drill in the Arctic. Protections for polar bears and walruses mean that the company will not be able to drill with two rigs close together simultaneously, as it had planned. This will slow the drilling process. Separately, Reuters reported that Shell's second oil drilling rig has now left the Seattle port for Alaska. The Hill also has the story.      Reuters 

South Korea bumps up greenhouse gas emissions goal 
South Korea joined China, Serbia and Iceland in submitting its climate pledge to the UN yesterday. Its target is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 37% from business-as-usual levels by 2030. According to Reuters, this is higher than its earlier plan for a 15-30% cut. RTCC also has the story.     The Hill 

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Climate pledge puts China on course to peak emissions as early as 2027

  • 01 Jul 2015, 08:10
  • Simon Evans

China is aiming to peak its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions "around 2030" and will make "best efforts" to peak early, its climate pledge to the UN confirms.

China's intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) includes a new target to reduce its carbon intensity by 60-65% of 2005 levels by 2030. Carbon Brief analysis suggests the top end of this range would see CO2 peaking in 2027. China also says it will source 20% of its energy in 2030 from low-carbon sources.

The announcement, which adds to existing Chinese commitments, came on a busy day on Tuesday for climate pledges. South Korea, Serbia and Iceland all filed INDCs with the UN, bringing the share of global emissions covered by pledges to nearly 56%. Tuesday also saw Brazil and the US announce new commitments to renewable energy at a joint summit in Washington.

Largest emitter

As the world's largest emitter responsible for nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, China's announcement is the most significant. Amber Rudd, UK energy and climate change secretary, said it was a sign that momentum was building for a deal in Paris this December. We'll look at what China says it wants from that deal in a moment.

China become the world's largest emitter in 2005-6 (red line, below), after overtaking the EU in 2003 and the US in 2005. It rapidly eclipsed the world's other major economies through coal-fuelled expansion and double-digit economic growth.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 At 12.11.18


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Explainer: Aviation's battle to limit rising emissions

  • 30 Jun 2015, 10:45
  • Sophie Yeo
Aircraft Landing

Aircraft landing | Shutterstock

Tomorrow, the Airports Commission is expected to make its recommendation on how to expand the aviation industry in the UK.

Sir Howard Davies, the economist behind the report, has weighed up three options: a new runway at Heathrow, a new runway at Gatwick, and extending Heathrow's northern runway. 

But a question mark hangs over how the new runway would be compatible with the UK's climate change targets, rendering it an issue of not where it should be built, but whether it should be built at all.

The UK's dilemma is a microcosm of the global story of rapid expansion in the aviation industry, at a time when emissions need to rapidly decrease.

UK aviation emissions

Under the UK's 2008 Climate Change Act, emissions must be reduced by 80% on 1990 levels by 2050.

In 2009, the government  decided that aviation emissions must be capped at 2005 levels - 37.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) - by 2050. However, in 2012, it  said it would not officially incorporate this target into its legally binding carbon budgets due to policy uncertainty at an international level.

Nonetheless, the government has informally left space within its carbon budgets to accommodate 37.5MtCO2 from the aviation sector in 2050.

Currently, aviation emissions are set to far exceed 2005 levels in 2050. Even if no new runways are built in the UK, CO2 emissions are expected to be at 47Mt in 2050, according to  statistics from the Department of Transport.

Aviation Infographic FinalClick to expand. Credit: Rosamund Pearce for Carbon Brief

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Daily Briefing | Frackers want law change as council blocks drilling plan

  • 30 Jun 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Shale Gas Exploration

Shale gas exploration | Geograph

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Steep 2014 UK emissions cuts are unsustainable, warns Committee on Climate Change 
In its latest progress report, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) delivers its verdict on how effective government policy has been in achieving the UK's legislated climate targets. The report is a story of good news with serious qualifications. UK emissions fell steeply in 2014. But the government cannot take the credit, says the CCC, and there are serious questions about whether these reductions can be sustained in the long term.    Carbon Brief

Updated: Two plans to begin first fracking operations in UK for four years rejected 
Two applications by Cuadrilla to carry out exploratory fracking in the UK for the first time in four years have both now been refused by Lancashire County Council's planning committee. The decisions have been described as a "major blow" for the UK fracking industry. Carbon Brief summarises the decisions and explores what they might mean for the UK's energy mix and climate goals.      Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

Frackers want law change as council blocks drilling plan 
The decision by councillors in Lancashire to defy their own legal advisers by rejecting an application for the UK's first exploratory fracking rig near Blackpool means, reports the Times, that the "multibillion-pound fracking industry in Britain [has] suffered a huge setback". The Guardian says hundreds of anti-fracking campaigners were "visibly delighted" outside the council meeting in Preston as news of the "surprise" victory reached them. The BBC says Cuadrilla, the firm making the application to frack for shale gas, was "surprised and disappointed" and would consider its "options" regarding an appeal. BusinessGreen rounds up all the reaction, including the views of Pieter Kiernan, energy analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit: "It is clear that the emergence of shale gas in the UK, and more broadly in Europe, will be very much slower than what has been witnessed in the US given lower levels of public support and tighter environmental rules." The Financial Times says that "a fracking campaign by any UK shale explorer, let alone first production, which was always a distant prospect, could now be several years away".      The Times 

Climate change plans require urgent action, government warned 
The UK must take urgent action to prepare for the impact of climate change, the government has been warned. Ministers should focus on the future risks of heatwaves and flooding, says the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in its annual progress report. Its report said more needed to be done to keep emissions on track. The Guardian focuses on the CCC's remark that the government "must explain how its withdrawal of support from onshore windfarms will affect the cost of meeting greenhouse gas emissions targets". The Financial Times notes that the CCC pointed out that "poor design of homes and hospitals will add to heatwave problems". Meanwhile, the Times highlights another detail from the report: "People who pave their front garden should be forced to restore it to grass to keep cities cool in summer." The Telegraph also coudn't resist this angle. RTCC and Reuters also carry the story, and BusinessGreen sums up all the reaction.     BBC News 

EU-China summit ends with climate pledge imminent 
China and the European Union redoubled their commitment to a strong climate pact on Monday in a Brussels summit, reports RTCC, as expectations build for the publication - due today - of China's widely-anticipated emissions reduction pledge. Heads of the world's number one and three emitters of greenhouse gas emissions signed a joint agreement on climate change and heralded a "new starting point" after 40 years of relations. Reuters reported comments made by Li Keqiang, the Chinese premier, in which he said that the EU and China must "step up their establish a fair, reasonable, win-win global climate governance system". Politico went out on something of a limb by reporting that "China ready to go further on climate change", adding it would do so "by moving up the timeline for peaking its carbon emissions and opening the possibility of sending money to other countries to take action, according to EU sources close to the negotiations". Separately, RTCC reported that the BASIC group of countries - India, China, Brazil and South Africa - released a 21-point statement outlining how they see a global climate change pact working. The Guardian also reports the BASIC statement.      RTCC 

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Government can't take credit for steep 2014 emissions cuts, says Committee on Climate Change

  • 30 Jun 2015, 00:01
  • Sophie Yeo & Robert McSweeney

In its latest progress report, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) delivers its verdict on how effective government policy has been in achieving the UK's legislated climate targets.

The report is a story of good news with serious qualifications. In 2014, emissions fell  dramatically in the UK, meaning that the government will comfortably remain within the  carbon budgets outlining the rate of decarbonisation up to 2022.

But can the government take the credit for the reductions? And will it be able to continue at its current pace?

With a number of key policies set to expire, the future looks uncertain, says the CCC.  Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, says:

"The government has put into place a series of programmes which properly meets its [current] requirements, but it has very urgently to move those forward if it's going to be in that same place in two or three years' time, certainly in five years' time."

A good year

UK emissions fell steeply in 2014. But the government cannot take the credit, say the CCC.

Between 2009 and 2013, emissions fell at an annual average rate of just 1%. In 2014, the rate of reduction increased to 8%, which is impressive - on the surface.

This 8% fall puts the UK's emissions 36% below 1990 levels. The UK is now well within its second carbon budget, covering the period 2013 to 2017, during which it needs to achieve a 29% reduction on 1990 levels. Even if emissions fell no further, it would meet its third carbon budget of a 35% reduction on 1990 levels by 2020.

But there are serious questions about whether these reductions can be sustained in the long term.

According to the CCC, the reductions were partly due to a mild winter, which meant there was low demand for heating. Adjusted to reflect this, the CCC says emissions would have still fallen by 6%. At this rate, the UK could achieve its 2050 target of an 80% reduction on 1990 levels 15 years early.

This was not the only one-off event which influenced 2014 emissions.

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Daily Briefing | New runway would make emissions soar

  • 29 Jun 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Aircraft Landing

Aircraft landing | Shutterstock

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The Carbon Brief Interview: Janos Pasztor 
Janos Pasztor was appointed Ban Ki-moon's assistant secretary-general on climate change in January 2015. His interview with Carbon Brief covers everything from the importance of climate finance to whether the world could tackle climate change without the UN.    Carbon Brief 

Plan to begin first fracking operation in UK for four years rejected 
An application to carry out exploratory fracking in the UK for the first time in four years has been refused by Lancashire County Council's planning committee. A second decision over another site looks likely to be approved today, but could be mired in legal argument. Carbon Brief summarises the decisions and explores what they might mean for the UK's energy mix and climate goals.    Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

New runway would make emissions soar 
Heathrow's nitrogen dioxide emissions would rise by more than 40% if it were allowed to build a new runway, according a preliminary report from the Airports Commission. The Commission's external consultants found that emissions from aircraft and traffic would increase from 5,850 to 8,300 tons a year under the favoured northwest runway scheme. With a recommendation expected soon, The Daily Telegraph reports that the Commission will "fudge" the decision by recommending expansion at Heathrow but without ruling out building at Gatwick - thus allowing ministers to oppose expansion at Heathrow. While The Independent says David Cameron and George Osborne will test to loyalty of their Cabinet by backing the Heathrow options. Several ministers have constituencies that would be affected by increased air and road traffic at Heathrow, and Boris Johnson has long opposed the plans, it reports. Meanwhile, The Financial Times reports that anti-Heathrow campaigners are planning a big rally in central London this autumn in the event that Heathrow is chosen.    The Sunday Times 

Fracking: Energy Secretary's advisor received £5,000 election donation from company set to benefit from controversial technique 
A new advisor to the Energy Secretary Amber Rudd received a £5,000 donation to his local party from a company set to benefit from the introduction of fracking. Addison Projects, part of a £25m engineering company based in Lancashire, made the donation to the constituency party of Conservative MP Paul Maynard in March. Mr Maynard was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ms Rudd after the General Election. Both Mr Maynard and Addison insist that the donation was unconnected with efforts to introduce fracking.    Independent on Sunday 

Lancashire county council rejects Cuadrilla fracking bid 
Councillors have unanimously refused a planning application for fracking at one site in Lancashire. The Council's development control committee turned down Cuadrilla's application to explore for shale gas at Roseacre Wood because of "an unacceptable impact" on rural roads. The committee will resume discussions on a second proposal for Little Plumpton at 10am this morning. Carbon Brief has all the details.    Press Association via Guardian 

Barack Obama sets sizzling climate action pace in push to leave legacy 
The White House has pushed through around 40 new measures to fight carbon pollution just since the start of 2015, stepping up the pace ahead of critical talks for a global climate change deal. Since his speech on his climate ambitions to students at Georgetown University in June 2013, Obama has taken initial action on all 75 of the goals set out in the plan - to cut carbon pollution, prepare the US for climate change, and help reach a global warming deal, says analysis by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.    The Guardian 

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The Carbon Brief Interview: Janos Pasztor

  • 26 Jun 2015, 17:30
  • Leo Hickman
Janos Pasztor at the 2015 climate talks in Bonn

Janos Pasztor | Carbon Brief

Janos Pasztor was appointed Ban Ki-moon's assistant secretary-general on climate change in January 2015. He will serve as the UN secretary-general's senior advisor on climate change until the climate conference in Paris in December. Previously, he was director of policy and science at WWF International in Switzerland. From 2011 to 2012, he served as the executive secretary of the UN secretary-general's high-level panel on global sustainability.

Pasztor on how much time Ban Ki-moon is dedicating to climate change: "There is not another subject that he spends as much time on as climate change."

On the importance of tackling climate change: "If we don't fix climate change, all the development advances that we have achieved will go backwards again."

On the role of Ban Ki-moon: "[His] all this is to keep reminding ourselves of what the science tells us and what the science tells us where we need to be and where we are now."

On the importance of climate finance: "We need a lot of trust in this negotiation process. To have a finance package be resolved...this would be very helpful for the overall negotiation process."

On whether the world could tackle climate change without the UN: " not happening fast enough...We need a global agreement that clarifies the direction in which we are going and, therefore, accelerates the whole process. Who else can do this other than the UN?"

On whether the 1.5C target is still politically possible? "It is possible. The feasibility is more difficult, let's be honest."

On the need for a ratchet mechanism in the Paris deal: "We have to be sure that in the agreement there is a good system of monitoring and review...ratchet up the ambition over time, correcting and adjusting as needs be, to make sure that we can move off the 4-5C pathway."

On the need for a long-term goal in the Paris deal: "The long-term goal also has to address adaptation and address the financing  of developing countries."


CB: What proportion of Ban Ki-moon's working week is he dedicating to climate change?

JP: Wow, it's a lot! He has consistently, since his first term, been very much focused on climate change. It's hard to say how many hours. We don't count the hours when your secretary general; the days and the weeks and so on. But I can tell you that I don't think there is another subject that he has to deal with - and there are many - there is not another subject that he spends as much time on as climate change.

CB: And at what point did it become this intense? At the summit last September in New York? Has this been a dominant theme for the last two years? Or was it particularly 2015?

JP: No, no. It goes back to his first term. He's been there now for eight years. And his interests and his engagement in climate change was from the very beginning, shortly after he became secretary-general. And the first major event where he was in action was at the Bali conference and this was in 2007. That's where he was then  he spoke very engagingly and then he left and the negotiations were not going well so he came back and got the people together and said, "You've got to agree on something". That's how the Bali agreement was finalised. That was his first real interaction and after that he formulated a strategy that he really needs to deal with this particular issue as it was so important to everything that the United Nations does. If we don't fix climate change, all the development advances that we have achieved will go backwards again: the impact on poverty and food security, and all the things of the UN stands for.  So he recognised it quite early and he said this is something I have to focus on. Then he went on and has been focused on this ever since. It's not just this year or last year. It's a long-term, eight-year project.

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Updated: Two plans to begin first fracking operations in UK for four years rejected

  • 26 Jun 2015, 15:05
  • Simon Evans

Update 29/6 - Councillors this morning voted to reject a second application to resume exploratory fracking, following publication of three separate pieces of legal advice. The refusal passed with nine in support, three against and two abstentions.

Two applications to carry out exploratory fracking in the UK for the first time in four years have been refused by Lancashire County Council's planning committee.

The decision to refuse fracking firm Cuadrilla's plans for Roseacre Wood near Blackpool was "very significant" and a "test case" for the UK's nascent shale gas industry,   said the BBC last week. Today's decision to refuse plans at Preston New Road cements the situation and leaves Conservative plans to accelerate UK fracking hanging in the balance.

The  Guardian calls the decision a "major blow". The  Telegraph says it is a "major setbeck" to government hopes of a shale industry.

A government moratorium on fracking was imposed in 2011 after Cuadrilla caused earth tremors at another nearby site. The council's decisions are the first since that ban was lifted in 2012.

Carbon Brief summarises the decisions and explores what they might mean for the UK's energy mix and climate goals.

Planning decisions

Lancashire County Council has been considering two Cuadrilla planning applications to carry out exploratory fracking. As the first since 2011, the cases have generated huge interest, attracting tens of thousands of responses to public consultation on the schemes.

In January, planning officers said the bid to resume UK fracking at Little Plumpton Farm and Roseacre Wood near Blackpool should be  refused, because of noise and traffic concerns.

Cuadrilla then  amended its proposals and officers said the Little Plumpton application should be  accepted, on condition of further controls to limit noise. The Roseacre Wood site was still deemed to pose "unacceptable" traffic impacts because of its rural setting.

The Preston New Road/Little Plumpton Farm site (central yellow marker and red area, below) is closer to Blackpool and has easier access to trunk roads. The Roseacre Wood site (top right) is more rural.

Fracking -mapMap of Cuadrilla's proposed shale gas exploration sites on the Fylde peninsula in Lancashire. The yellow flags and areas show the location of each proposed well-pad. The red areas show the maximum extent of underground drilling at each site. Have a look at an interactive version. Map created by Carbon Brief with Mapbox, using information from Cuadrilla environmental statements.

On Thursday, the council's planning committee voted to refuse the Roseacre Wood scheme, in line with the advice of its planning officer, citing the likelihood of heavy goods vehicle traffic on rural roads near the site.

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Daily Briefing | Lancashire council under pressure to approve fracking

  • 26 Jun 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Operating oil and gas well profiled on sunset sky

Oil & gas well | Shutterstock

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UK meets interim renewable energy target, says DECC report 
New data from DECC show, contrary to recent press reports, the UK met its interim renewable energy target for 2013/14. The UK got 6.3% of its energy from renewables averaged over 2013/14, easily passing its interim goal of 5.4%. However, the UK remains well short of its target under the EU Renewable Energy Directive. The UK must source 15% of its energy for heat, transport and power from renewable sources by 2020.     Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

Lancashire council under pressure to approve fracking 
The Times reports that councillors in Lancashire are under pressure to approve the first fracking site in Britain for four years after their own barrister said it would be "unreasonable" to reject it. The council's development committee has deferred its decision whether to greenlight fracking at Cuadrilla's Preston New Road site until Monday. However, the council's barrister told councillors he was "unaware of any objective evidence" that Cuadrilla's application would cause unacceptable visual, light and noise impact, or pollute the air and groundwater. A lost appeal could land the authority with millions in costs. The Financial Times said that the councillors had decided to reject Cuadrilla's parallel application to frack at Roseacre Wood near Preston. In an analysis piece for the BBC, the local reporter Steve Becker, said the Roseacre Wood rejection was "very significant": "It is the first test case on whether fracking will be given the go-ahead in Lancashire and it has been turned down because of traffic."     The Times 

Gates to double investment in renewable energy projects 
The FT's interview with the Microsoft founder and philanthropist features on the frontpage with Gates saying that he plans to double his personal investment in "innovative green technologies" to $2bn over the next five years in an attempt to "bend the curve" in combating climate change. He argues that current technologies could only reduce global CO2 emissions at a "beyond astronomical" economic cost. "The only way you can get to the very positive scenario is by great innovation," he said, adding that he would prefer to see a move away from subsidies towards R&D: "It should be like the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Project." He lists "recycling nuclear", "solar chemical" and high-altitude wind power among the most promising new technologies.     Financial Times

David Attenborough and Barack Obama face-to-face in TV interview 
Preview footage has been released of the meeting in May at the White House where the US president interviewed the TV naturalist. The full interview will be broadcast on BBC1 this Sunday. Challenged by Attenborough on why he cannot show a commitment to tackling climate change in the same way previous presidents had strived to put people on the moon, Obama says: "We're not moving as fast as we need to and part of what I know from watching your programmes, and all the great work you've done, is that these ecosystems are all interconnected. If just one country is doing the right thing but other countries are not, then we're not going to solve the problem, we're going to have to have a global solution to this." The BBCTimes and Telegraph also carry the story.     The Guardian 

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