What does the Climate Change Committee advice on aviation and shipping mean in practice?
- 05 Apr 2012, 17:00
- Ros Donald
The UK's Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says the government
should include international aviation and shipping emissions in its
carbon budgets. Climate skeptics and industry bodies have
criticized the advice saying it will harm the UK's competitiveness.
But will it?
new report released today, the CCC says emissions from overseas
air and sea transport - which make up
five per cent and 1.5 per cent of UK emissions respectively -
should be formally included in the budgets to ensure a new
government would not reverse the position. It adds that the move
would make UK carbon accounting more transparent.
Emissions from international aviation and shipping were
initially left out of the UK's
carbon budgets - which set caps on the total quantity of UK
greenhouse gas emissions over a specific time period.
A hit to the economic recovery?
The director of the climate skeptic thinktank the Global Warming
Policy Foundation (GWPF), Benny Peiser, was quoted in Metro
the advice today, saying:
"Further unilateral targets would
undermine Britain's economy and recovery. I don't think there any
chance of the CCC getting listened to on this."
Similarly, the UK's Freight Transport Association (FTA) has
already spoken out against the move, saying while it supports
emissions reductions, the UK must avoid "
taking the burden of reducing emissions alone". An FTA
representative said in 2011 that it would mean "less
environmentally efficient countries" could take business away from
the UK, harming the economy and leading to worse emissions levels
But contrary to critics' assertions, the CCC says the inclusion
would mean "no new commitments or costs in aviation, shipping or
other sectors of the economy." A CCC spokesperson told us the
committee "very deliberately recommended an approach to inclusion
of [emissions from shipping and aviation] that does not imply
A closer look indicates that in practice, these predictions may
not pan out to be that different from the status quo. According to
the committee's handy interactive guide, the current government
already includes these emissions informally, based on its
interpretation of the UK's Climate Change Act.
And formally implementing the change would mean increasing the
currently agreed budgets to include aviation emissions based on the
UK share of the EU emissions trading scheme cap - 31 megatonnes
of CO2 per year. Meanwhile, UK international shipping emissions
would be added at around nine megatonnes of CO2 per year to reflect
energy efficiency design index adopted by the International
And what about "unilateral" climate policy
The GWPF has complained in the past about what it has termed the
unilateral targets that cut CO2 emissions in Britain faster and
deeper than other countries in Europe."
The UK Chancellor, George Osborne, has also made similar
"We're not going to save the planet by
putting our country out of business. So let's, at the very least,
resolve that we're going to cut our carbon emissions no slower, but
also no faster, than our fellow countries in Europe."
But is the CCC really recommending the UK adopt further measures
that put us ahead of other countries in terms of carbon targets?
Well, according to the CCC spokesperson, the answer is no. Instead
they say the budget adjustments are based on existing EU policy for
aviation and global policy for shipping. Peiser is also against the
EU's carbon targets, which he also says are "unilateral", but
according to the CCC, the measures wouldn't make the UK's carbon
cutting any more onerous.
So despite the protest, it appears the CCC's suggestion wouldn't
harm the UK's "competitiveness" or constitute a "unilateral" policy
measure. In practice, aside from putting the UK's current approach
to carbon budgets into law, it wouldn't do much at all.