Britain Must Cut Flights or Miss CO2 Targets
LONDON -- The British government must curb the huge expansion in air travel or risk overshooting its self-imposed target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent by 2050, a study said on Tuesday.
CO2 emissions from aviation in Britain are set to surge by between four and ten times 1990 levels by the middle of the century, accounting on their own for two-thirds of the government's emission target for that year, it said.
Yet far from doing anything about the problem, government policy is actively promoting airport expansion which could see passenger numbers more than double to 470 million a year, from 200 million, by 2030, it said.
"The government has to confront the contradictions in its policies," said Brenda Boardman from Oxford University's Environment Change Institute which conducted the study for the government-funded UK Energy Research Centre.
"Unless the rate of growth in flights is curbed, the UK cannot fulfil its commitments on climate change. It has to undertake demand management. Relying on technological fixes alone is totally unrealistic," she said.
The report "Predict and Decide" was published by the All Party Parliamentary Sustainable Aviation Group.
Most scientists now agree that average temperatures will rise by between two and six degrees Celsius by the end of the century, driven by so-called "greenhouse gases" like carbon dioxide created by burning fossil fuels for power and transport.
Even with a two-degree rise, they predict a surge in species loss and extreme weather events like droughts and floods. Polar icecaps will melt, raising sea levels by several metres.
The Kyoto Protocol is the only global deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but its ambitions are limited. The world's biggest polluter, the United States, has rejected it and it is not binding on emerging boom economies India and China
The British government has refused to take any action to curb the explosive growth in its air travel industry as rival low-cost carriers make flights accessible to all.
It says unilateral action would be economically damaging and argues that as a global problem, cutting emissions demands a global response.
It is pressing -- to date with little effect -- for air transport to be included in the European Emissions Trading Scheme if it is extended beyond its expiry date of 2012.