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Aviation (Emissions)

Volume 475: debated on Thursday 1 May 2008

Aviation’s climate change impact is currently responsible for about 6 or 7 per cent. of the UK’s total carbon dioxide emissions and 1.6 per cent. of global CO2 emissions. Recent research in 2000 by the European Commission’s TRADEOFF project suggested that the total climate change impact of aviation up to 2000 was 1.9 times greater than its CO2 impact alone.

Given that the recent National Audit Office report showed that there have been no reductions in UK carbon dioxide emissions

“ if measured on the basis of the Environmental Accounts”,

which means that since 1990, if aviation and shipping emissions are included, we have had no reductions in CO2, may we have an assurance from the Secretary of State that when he talks to Transport Ministers about plans to build extra runways at Heathrow and elsewhere, and when the Climate Change Bill comes back to the House, aviation and shipping emissions will be included, not hidden away to pretend that they do not matter?

There is no question of hiding anything away or saying that it does not matter. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Bill makes provision to include those emissions once there is international agreement on how to divide up responsibility, for example, for a flight that leaves Heathrow flown by an American airline, refuels in Dubai and ends up in Sydney, or for ships refuelling from bunker fuel ships in international waters with a Panamanian flag. It is a practical problem. The second thing that we are already doing will mean that aviation is included in the EU emissions trading scheme. As the hon. Gentleman will realise, that means that aviation emissions will be capped in Europe at their 2004-06 level and any growth above that will have to be compensated for by reductions elsewhere.

Further to that point, as my right hon. Friend is aware, aviation and shipping are included in the Bill, but he said that international agreement needs to come first. If we do not get international agreement, can he reassure me that we will go down the road of an agreement within the EU, and if that does not go ahead, we will take unilateral decisions and ensure reductions ourselves?

Of course, domestic emissions from aviation are already included in the totals in the Bill, and yes, it is true that Europe is leading because the international air transport organisation has not taken the lead in dealing with emissions from aviation. We are firmly committed to support Europe’s EU emissions trading scheme and aviation’s inclusion in it. That is the best hope we have in the world of making progress on the issue.

When considering carbon emissions from aviation, however, will the Secretary of State ensure that proper regard is given to the comparative emissions from the different modes of transport available to people? Will he bear in mind that in the highlands and islands, where the alternatives are often long road journeys and ferry journeys, aviation with a well-filled plane travelling not too high can be a carbon-efficient way of moving people around? Will he ensure that they are not penalised for using that mode of transport?

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s point. That is why, in looking at the operation of aviation’s inclusion in the EU emissions trading scheme, account has been taken of precisely that point in respect of a number of EU countries where those facts obtain.