Select Committee on Environmental Audit Third Report

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  It is extraordinary that, after such an extensive period of consultation on aviation policy, the DfT was unable to publish the documents supporting the White Paper until nearly two months later. This raises questions about the extent to which such analyses were fully available during the autumn at the time when the key decisions contained in the White Paper were being made. (Paragraph 6)

2.  Despite protestations to the contrary, it is abundantly clear that the aviation White Paper adopts a "predict and provide" approach. The DfT has forecast future demand and then provided the framework to meet practically all of it. It is actively promoting growth on the scale envisaged, and indeed the urgency with which it is requiring airport operators to implement expansion plans bears this out. (Paragraph 12)

3.  We do not know to what extent future growth in air travel will be fuelled by existing passengers travelling more frequently rather than by the 50% of the population who do not currently fly at all. The DfT has failed to carry out any detailed studies to explore the social and behavioural impacts of the proposed growth in aviation, and the manner in which these impacts may vary for different rates of growth. It must do so as soon as possible and publish the results. (Paragraph 16)

4.  The DfT must publish a formal statement of what it understands by sustainable consumption in the context of air travel. As part of this statement, it should explain how the projected growth from 180 mppa to 476 mppa by 2030 can be reconciled with the commitment made by the UK Government in Johannesburg to encourage more sustainable approaches to consumption; and it should also set out what policies it is pursuing to discourage unnecessary air travel. (Paragraph 18)

5.  The Integrated Policy Appraisal which supports the White Paper offers a particularly weak assessment of climate change impacts. The entries are not only very slim compared to other parts of the IPA, but they entirely fail to reflect the scale of aviation emissions by 2030 in relation to UK domestic emissions or to give any hint of the difficulties which will face the UK in meeting its carbon reduction targets. (Paragraph 21)

6.  We agree with the Chief Scientist that climate change is a profoundly serious threat to mankind. The Government has in principle accepted our recommendation that specific consideration must be given in policy appraisals to the impact on carbon targets. It must ensure that this priority is in future fully reflected in appraisals conducted by all departments. (Paragraph 24)

7.  We welcome the fact that the Government will consider including the possibility of catastrophic or sudden climate changes in its estimate of the price of carbon—notwithstanding our conviction that the value of our climate is literally priceless. (Paragraph 26)

8.  The DfT has implicitly admitted that it failed to include the environmental costs of aviation emissions in its appraisals and has sought to rectify this omission in the supporting document Aviation and Global Warming. (Paragraph 27)

9.  As far as we can identify, the DfT has nowhere calculated a figure for the net consumer and producer surplus arising from the overall increase in aviation forecast in the White Paper from 180 mppa to 476 mppa. In other words, we have no net benefit figure with which to compare our figure of minus £42 billion NPV for the increase in environmental costs. In this sense, the DfT has failed to evaluate the impact of new terminals, runway extensions, and operational improvements aimed at maximising the use of existing runways. (Paragraph 28)

10.  The quality of the economic appraisal of options carried out by the DfT is poor and the supporting analysis contained in Aviation and Global Warming is opaque and unhelpful. The DfT should address this by publishing a new and fully documented appraisal which takes account of the overall forecast increase in air traffic. (Paragraph 0.?)

11.  On the key issue of the impact of aviation on global warming, the White Paper contains no specific proposals apart from the commitment to work towards the inclusion of aviation in the second phase of the European Emissions Trading System from 2008. We are disappointed at the failure of the Government to show leadership in this area. (Paragraph 30)

12.  It is regrettable that the Government did not take the initiative in promoting an interim emissions charge in view of the difficulties and timescales involved in developing an ETS to cover aviation. We believe that such an approach could offer the scope for flexible adoption by like-minded member states and could therefore be a more practical option than emissions trading which requires an all or nothing approach. (Paragraph 33)

13.  We are astonished at the lack of essential research to underpin the incorporation of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). In view of the timescales involved in developing and ratifying EU directives, we suspect it may soon be too late to achieve the Government's professed intention of incorporating aviation in the second phase of the EU ETS from 2008. The DfT must set out, in response to this report, what needs to be done and by when to achieve this goal. (Paragraph 36)

14.  It is unclear if any consensus exists among EU member states on incorporating aviation within the EU Emissions Trading System; and whether the political will exists to resolve the complex and contentious issues which need to be addressed for this to be achieved. It is not even clear to what extent, and at what level, any of these issues are even being discussed. (Paragraph 38)

15.  in commenting on the recent ICAO meeting, the DfT official referred to the UK as 'ploughing a pretty lonely furrow' in its advocacy of emissions trading, and—given the opposition of some important players—we conclude that the likelihood of any significant progress being made is remote. (Paragraph 39)

16.  We welcome the fact that the DfT has accepted our figures for the relative impact of aviation emissions compared to UK domestic emissions. We trust that the Treasury will do so too, and will in future provide figures on a consistent basis which take account of the radiative forcing effect. (Paragraph 43)

17.  It is inconceivable that any emissions trading system could generate sufficient credits to allow aviation to expand as forecast, while at the same time delivering carbon reductions of the order needed. The price of carbon could, in such circumstances, go through the roof—provided there was sufficient political will to maintain targets and enforce penalties. (Paragraph 45)

18.  If aviation emissions increase on the scale predicted by the DfT, the UK's 60% carbon emission reduction target which the Government set last year will become meaningless and unachievable. The most we could hope to attain would be about 35%. The DfT admitted that the target would need to be looked at should international emissions be allocated to national inventories—and this can only mean with a view to watering it down. (Paragraph 50)

19.  The Government should recognise the difficulties it faces in meeting its long-term carbon targets. If it did so, it would be forced to take more action now and develop an adequate policy response. It should not continue to hope that the solution lies in technological advances as the weight of evidence suggests that the scope for these is limited. (Paragraph 51)

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