Plans to expand Heathrow Airport are set to breach the government’s climate change laws, advisers have warned. The Committee on Climate Change says the business plan for Heathrow projects a 15% increase in aviation emissions by 2050. If that increase is allowed, members say, ministers will have to squeeze even deeper emissions cuts from other sectors of the economy.
The government said it was determined to keep to its climate change targets. The Committee on Climate Change is a statutory body set up to advise the UK government on emissions targets. It warns that creating the space for aviation emissions to grow will impose unbearable extra emissions reductions on sectors like steel-making, motoring and home heating.
The committee also says that in making the decision to allow a third runway at Heathrow, ministers appear to have jettisoned their policy that aviation emissions in 2050 would be frozen at 2005 levels.
Its chair, Lord Deben, wrote to the Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark, saying: “If emissions from aviation are now anticipated to be higher than 2005, then all other sectors would have to prepare for correspondingly higher emissions reductions.
“Aviation emissions at 2005 levels already imply an 85% reduction in other sectors. My committee has limited confidence about the options (for achieving the compensatory cuts needed).”Already since 1990, aviation emissions have doubled while economy-wide emissions have reduced by more than a third. Ministers see aviation as a special case because low-carbon technology for planes is not well advanced.
The committee says the Department for Transport appears to be planning to solve the aviation overshoot by buying permits to pollute from poor countries which have low levels of CO2 emissions.