Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Manchester

  1.  The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research is a network of universities that brings together climate scientists, engineers and social scientists to develop sustainable responses to climate change. This memorandum reflects the views of Tyndall Centre researchers at the University of Manchester. The Tyndall Centre as an organization does not adopt policy positions.

  2.  Tyndall Centre (Manchester) researchers have generated a suite of scenarios related to the various emissions sectors. Whilst some of these scenarios scope out emission trajectories for the full energy system, others are more detailed evaluations of aviation in particular. The Decarbonising UK scenarios, whilst considering all sectors, do have considerable focus on transport emissions, analysed in relation to private road, public road, road freight, rail, shipping and aviation. Complementing this work, is a more detailed analysis of civil aviation emissions associated with the UK and EU up to 2050. Tyndall scenarios are related to a range of targets, broadly based on the UK and EU making their fair contribution to a future under both a 450ppmv and 550ppmv concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide.[104]

  3.  The emission scenarios demonstrate a wide range of futures in which transport can be reconciled with various emission reductions. Whilst some of these are primarily demand-led, others contain significant technology and fuel developments allied with modal shift. The aviation analysis is developed in greater detail and clearly demonstrates that unless both the UK and EU serious tackle the growth in this sector as a matter of urgency, meaningful carbon dioxide reduction targets will simply not be credible. This analysis considers a range of issues, including, for example, historical trends, the impact of 9/11, new plane efficiency, fleet turnover, etc, as well as being based on the very latest emissions data, in stark contrast to the Government's own analysis.

  4.  Work within Tyndall Manchester illustrates the significance of different target atmospheric carbon dioxide regimes in terms of the emissions reduction necessary within the EU and UK. It is increasingly evident that unless the UK is to rethink its interpretation of "dangerous climate change" as correlating with a global mean surface temperature rise of two degrees centigrade, it must accept a significant reduction from the 550ppmv figure that it continues to work towards. The scientific consensus is that a carbon dioxide concentration of below 450ppmv is more likely to correlate with two degrees centigrade; the implication of this for UK and EU emission targets, and hence policies, cannot be underrated. Considering a 450ppmv future in relation to aviation highlights the scale of the problem. At projected growth rates and a 450ppmv target, by 2050, UK and EU aviation emissions alone will constitute between 80% and 100% of carbon emissions permissible for their respective economies, assuming no "uplift" of aviation emissions. If the additional climate warming generated by the production of condensation trails, cirrus clouds and the resultant formation of other greenhouse gases were to be taken into account by applying an uplift multiplier, aviation growth is likely to result in a requirement for full carbon neutrality of all other sectors sometime between 2020 and 2050.[105]

  5.  Given the magnitude and significance of these findings, we suggest that, in relation to the Committee's question: whether the DfT's carbon reduction target is underpinned by a coherent strategy stretching across the department's entire range of activities, the answer is a clear and categorical "no". In particular, we have yet to see any evidence that the DfT is taking long term climate change targets, whether related to 550ppmv or 450ppmv, seriously.

  6.  One approach increasingly heralded as a solution to the aviation issue, is the industry's inclusion within the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. However, as it is currently structured and in relation to the various emission caps arising from member states national allocation plans, the EU ETS would appear to offer little hope of significantly reducing overall emissions. Moreover, ICAO has yet to bring forward any practical plans for incorporating aviation emissions in international emissions trading.

  7.  Another issue that the Tyndall Manchester team have raised, and to some degree quantified, is the increasing emissions burden arising from international shipping. This, almost wholly, neglected sector is growing rapidly yet remains essentially outside the DfT's emissions brief. Such an omission cannot be reconciled with any claim that a "coherent strategy stretching across the department's entire range of activities" is in place—or even being considered.

  8.  In relation to the Committee's question: what realistically the DfT could achieve by 2010 and 2020 in terms of reducing transport-related carbon emissions, and the role that demand management should play in doing so, Tyndall work gives clear examples of responses, for instance:

    (a)  Aviation growth being curtailed as a matter of urgency;

    (b)  A moratorium on airport expansion and consideration of whether additional infrastructure should be selectively permitted on the basis of regional regeneration criteria, not market demand alone;

    (c)  Stringent minimum efficiency standards introduced for private cars, and possibly all other transport modes. These would be phased in to provide adequate market signals and then subsequently ratcheted up on a two yearly basis. (eg all cars sold on UK forecourts by 2010 should achieve a minimum of 40mpg, and this will be increased by 5% every two years thereafter until a review in 2020).

  9.  Compensation in terms of enhancing biological sinks (especially for bioenergy), energy efficiency and renewable energy projects all carry ethical and practical environmental risks. Yet DfT should at least be investigating schemes to deploy these options, given their likely political and consumer acceptability relative to emissions, fuel charges, or infrastructure restrictions.

February 2006

104   Bows, A, Anderson, K and Upham, P (2006) "Contraction and Convergence: UK Carbon Emissions and the Implications for UK Air Traffic", Technical Report, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, Back

105   The use of an "uplift factor" to account for the additional climate warming impacts of aviation is a highly contentious issue given the difficulties in using one metric to account for very different types of emissions. For example, a contrail released by an aircraft will last a number of days, and only affect the region where it is emitted, whereas carbon dioxide emitted by aircraft remains in the atmosphere for around 100 years, and eventually becomes well mixed throughout the atmosphere. Back

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