UK Climate Change Committee – 2023 Progress Report to Parliament            

All UK airport expansion plans should be stopped

That’s the urgent recommendation from the Climate Change Committee.  

This is not the first time that the Climate Change Committee has made this recommendation, but here we are again.  On June 28th 2023, the Committee released its 2023 Progress Report to the UK Parliament – and once again, the Committee is telling the UK Parliament that until a viable UK wide capacity management frame work is in place, all UK airport expansion plans should be stopped.  

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) is an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008. Its purpose is to advise the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets and to report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change.  

The Committee realises that left to its own devices, the aviation industry in all its guises (airports/airlines/executive jet operators), will continue to promote how environmentally sustainable they are. Yet we all know that the only kind of sustainability the airport industry is interested in, is sustaining its profits.   Aviation will not make a responsible decision to control its actions to control its effects on the Climate Emergency; we can but hope that our current UK Parliament will finally take its responsibilities to the World seriously, and Stop All UK Airport Expansion.    

Here is the accompanying letter by the Committee’s Chair, Lord Debden, to Mr Sunak the Prime Minister:

Please find attached the Climate Change Committee’s 2023 Progress Report to Parliament, my last as Chairman, which is laid in Parliament today.    

In it, we look back at the UK’s warmest year on record when, in the minds of many people, climate change truly arrived. Last summer’s record-breaking heatwave caused unprecedented numbers of heat-related deaths, wildfires, and significant disruption. During your premiership, you will no doubt want to lead the UK’s response to future climate-related extreme weather events.

Throughout my 11-year term, my Committee has held every Government’s feet to the fire on tackling climate change. It has been our role to ensure they make good on the legal commitments set out in the Climate Change Act and in the subsequent legislation which reflects the UK’s international obligations.    

Every June, the Law demands that the CCC presents to Parliament our honest and evidence-based assessment of how well the UK is doing to reduce emissions. This has not always been an easy message for the Government, and I appreciate the openness and integrity with which it has been received over the years.    

My final assessment is this:

The failure to act decisively in response to the energy crisis and build on the success of hosting COP26 means that the UK has lost its clear global climate leadership while game-changing interventions from the US and Europe, which will turbocharge growth of renewables, are leaving the UK behind. Inaction has been compounded by continuing support for further unnecessary investment in fossil fuels.  

The Government must act urgently to correct the failures of the past year – it cannot wait until the next General Election. I have to ask you directly to heed the advice in the CCC’s report and reclaim the UK’s clear climate leadership role.

Our children will not forgive us if we leave them a world of withering heat and devastating storms where sea level rises and extreme temperatures force millions to move because their countries are no longer habitable. None of us can avoid our responsibility. Delay is not an option.  

Chapter 10 of the report covers aviation and runs from pages 266-284.

The Commission details five key messages on aviation and climate change:-

Reliance on nascent technology – The Jet Zero Strategy approach is high risk due to its reliance on nascent technology – especially rapid SAF uptake and aircraft efficiency savings – over the period up to the Sixth Carbon Budget. The Government does not have a policy framework in place to ensure that emissions reductions in the aviation sector occur if these technologies are not delivered on time and at sufficient scale.  

Demand management -Demand management is the most effective way of reducing aviation CO2 and non-CO2 emissions. The Government has a range of options to manage demand, such as digital technologies, addressing private flying and providing lower-cost domestic rail travel. The Government should develop a suite of policy and technology options to address aviation demand.  

• Airport expansion -The Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget Advice recommended no net expansion of UK airports to ensure aviation can achieve the required pathway for UK aviation emissions. Since making this recommendation the Committee has noted that airports across the UK have increased their capacities and continue to develop capacity expansion proposals. This is incompatible with the UK’s Net Zero target unless aviation’s carbon-intensity is outperforming the Government’s pathway and can accommodate this additional demand. No airport expansions should proceed until a UK-wide capacity management framework is in place to annually assess and, if required, control sector CO2 emissions and non-CO2 effects. A framework should be developed by the Department for Transport in cooperation with the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish Governments over the next 12 months and should be operational by the end of 2024 at the latest.  

• SAF Mandate -The process to implement the Government’s ambitious SAF mandate is delayed and dependent on an uncertain domestic and global feedstock supply. The Jet Zero Strategy sets the SAF mandate target at 10% SAF by 2030. The CCC’s Balanced Pathway assumes 2% SAF uptake by 2030; our Widespread Innovation Pathway assumes a 3% share in 2030. Government must build in contingency and risk management into the SAF mandate to prepare for the possibility of constrained domestic and global SAF supply throughout the 2020s and 2030s.  

• Non-CO2 effects – Aviation non-CO2 effects have a net warming effect on the climate but have high levels of uncertainty and exhibit regional and seasonal variation. The second SAF mandate consultation does not include a defined commitment on aviation non-CO2 effects beyond developing an evidence base on its impacts. The Committee recommends Government commit to a minimum goal of no further additional warming after 2050 from non-CO2 effects.  

The full report can be downloaded here: –   

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