Tyndall Briefing Note No.

10 December 2003

Climate Change and the UK Aviation White Paper
Paul Upham
Tyndall Centre (North), UMIST PO Box 88, Manchester M60 1QD +44 161 200 3258 Email - p.upham@umist.ac.uk

planning in a relatively conventional mode. Operational factors have been given first priority, with infrastructure options subject to environmental assessment once selected. Not only does this leave hundreds of thousands of people exposed to noise levels above annoyance thresholds and permit substantial land-take in agricultural parts of the south east, but it also allows aviation carbon emissions to climb year on year. DfT estimate that internalizing the costs of climate change would in theory reduce demand for air travel by 10% of what it would be (by 2016 and continuing at the same level until the end of the study period at 2030). However, in practice they expect this demand reduction to be more than offset by falling ticket prices. Hence the projected doubling to trebling of passenger demand.

Synopsis This briefing provides an overview of a Policy Note recently published in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management by Tyndall North researcher Paul Upham, co-editor of the book Towards Sustainable Aviation (Earthscan, 2003). The Policy Note reviews the White Paper planning process and summarily estimates the carbon emissions implied by the proposed aviation expansion. The Note argues that the White Paper planning process gave an unreasonably low priority to the anticipated environmental impacts of aviation expansion, given their projected magnitude.

Aviation carbon emissions The 2003 UK energy White Paper endorses a target of reducing total UK carbon emissions by 60% by 2050. This reflects the analysis of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP, 2000) in their 22nd report ‘Energy—The Changing Climate’. The Royal Commission argued that a 60– 90% reduction in carbon emissions is required of industrialized countries by 2050, to avoid “dangerous climate change”. This target assumes that all nations will progress in the long term to equal per capita carbon emissions, in a “contraction and convergence” climate policy regime.

The White Paper planning process The UK aviation industry is now at a critical juncture. On 30 June 2003, the UK Department for Transport closed its consultations on Regional Air Services, prior to issuing a White Paper on 16th December 2003 that will set a policy framework for the next 30 years of UK aviation. The planning and consultation process has been extensive by any measure, eventually covering some 28 options for airport expansion at 14 different UK locations, collectively supported by a raft of technical documents relating to operations, economics and environment.

The most controversial aspect of the aviation and planning consultation has been its use of unconstrained passenger demand forecasts as means of structuring the investigation into options for aviation and airports policy. The “SERAS” and “RASCO” assessment and forecasting processes have approached air transport infrastructure

The problem is that substantial additional air traffic on four additional runways1 and numerous runway extensions, dependent on carbon intensive engine technology, is unlikely to sit well with an economy otherwise contracting in carbon emissions. The JEPM policy note estimates, on the basis of then available government forecasts for emissions and air traffic, that aviation would contribute some 26% of UK CO2 in 2020 and perhaps 36% in 20302. However, the even greater significance of projected trends for ‘unconstrained’ aviation growth becomes most apparent when seen in the context of the Energy White Paper’s 60% reduction target. By 2030, aviation would be consuming some 60% of the UK’s 2050 CO2 target. While it is possible that the UK may want to use its posited international CO2 share in this way, such a significant allocation to a single sector is not self-evidently justifiable. It would be even less so if the atmospheric concentration of CO2 assumed to be safe by the Royal Commission (550ppmv) turns out to be too high, as may be the case.

Tyndall Briefing Note No. 10

December 2003

Strategic environmental assessment of policy While strategic environmental assessment of plans and programmes will become mandatory in the EU during 2004, the UK Aviation White Paper illustrates
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the need to extend this to policy proposals with substantial environmental impacts. Climate change objectives are too important to have been subordinated to the perceived socio-economic benefits of aviation expansion, the evidence for which is mixed.

Stansted, Heathrow, Birmingham plus safeguarding of land for a new runway at Edinburgh. The aviation White Paper provides somewhat higher emissions estimates for 2020 and lower estimates for 2030.

© Copyright 2003, Tyndall Centre.
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Tyndall Briefing Note No. 10

December 2003