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World Development Movement


Britain cannot meet its target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 unless it includes international aviation emissions in the climate bill according to a new report, ‘Emissions Invisible’, from anti poverty campaigners the World Development Movement .

The draft climate bill proposes to exclude the UK’s share of international aviation emissions from emissions reduction targets [1]. At the same time the Department of Transport plans to significantly expand UK airports and airport capacity [2]

“The government is deluding itself if it thinks supporting massive expansion of Britain’s aviation and airport capacity can be squared with its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” said WDM director Benedict Southworth.

In its new report, Emissions Invisible [3], WDM calculates that:

  • Aviation currently accounts for 12.4 per cent of Britain’s contribution to climate change; greater than that of cars (9.3 per cent), home heating (11.1 per cent) or manufacturing and construction (11.3 per cent) [4].
  • Under current plans, UK aviation’s contribution to climate change will have increased by 213 per cent by 2050.
  • By 2050 the Climate Bill, as currently drafted, will result in only a 17 per cent reduction in Britain’s actual contribution to climate change despite other sectors of the economy undertaking more significant emissions reduction.

The report also shows that under current plans aviation will account for almost half of Britain’s contribution to climate change by 2050 but while the climate bill will likely necessitate emissions reductions from all other sectors of the British economy it allows international aviation emissions to continue growing [5].

WDM director Benedict Southworth said, “Right now we have the opportunity to include international aviation in the climate bill and curb the growth in emissions. However, the government’s current plans to expand aviation will make it even more difficult in future to meet the target.

“This is like planning to binge-drink and become an alcoholic knowing full well that a difficult sobering up process will be needed in future. To call this gross stupidity would be an understatement. Surely it is better to start consuming in moderation now. The Climate Bill must include international aviation in the reduction targets from the outset.”




[1]  The draft Climate Bill proposes that the UK’s contribution to international aviation emissions be excluded from reduction targets until or unless international agreement is reached on accounting for and reducing aviation emissions. This will delay action by the UK for at least 5 years and probably much longer. The draft Bill and consultation documents can be viewed at:http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/uk/legislation/index.htm

[2]  The government’s aviation white paper supports new runways at Edinburgh, Birmingham International, Stansted and Heathrow airports. In addition, the government’s white paper supports other airport expansion measures, such as new terminals or longer runways, at a total of 24 different airports in the UK.

[3]  A copy of the report Emissions invisible on a private section of the WDM site http://www.wdm.org.uk/resources/reports/climate/emissionsinvisible04052007.pdf

[4]  The draft Bill only requires reduction of carbon dioxide and excludes reduction of other greenhouse gases. Aviation makes up over 6 per cent of UK CO2 emissions, but the extra global warming effects of aviation boosts it to 10-15 per cent of the UK’s contribution to climate change. Aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK.

[5]  For example, WDM’s new report calculates that road transport’s contribution to climate change will likely have decreased by 56 per cent by 2050.

[6]  In March 2007 WDM released its report Dying on a jet plane that showed that the richest 18 per cent of the British population is responsible for 54 per cent of flights. WDM argued that the world’s poorest countries make effectively no contribution to climate change but are affected first and worst. http://www.wdm.org.uk/resources/reports/climate/dyingonajetplane19032007.pdf

[7]  The World Development Movement was founded in 1970. It campaigns to tackle the root causes of poverty. WDM believes that charity is not enough and aims to change the policies that keep the developing world poor. It is a democratic and politically independent organisation with 16,500 supporters and a strong role for its 70 local groups across the UK.

[8]  WDM supports ‘I Count’, the campaign of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition: www.icount.org.uk