Fri 6 Feb 2009 – According to the final estimates of total UK greenhouse gas emissions for 2007, CO2 emissions from international aviation fuel use decreased by 1.9% over 2006, and domestic aviation emissions fell by 6.6% over the same period. This is the first time emissions from UK aviation have fallen since the post-9/11 period. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) points out, however, that international aviation emissions have more than doubled since 1990 compared with a fall of 18% in overall UK GHG emissions.
The figures have been estimated from refuelling from bunkers at UK airports by UK and non-UK operators. Emissions from the transport sector as a whole rose by 1%.
The Government has recently set a new target for carbon dioxide emissions from UK aviation, both international and domestic, which requires them to be no higher than 2005 levels in 2050.
Under UNFCCC agreed guidelines, says DECC, emissions from international aviation and shipping are not included in the UK’s emissions total but the estimates are reported as memo items in the national greenhouse gas inventories.
Overall, UK emissions in 2007 of the basket of six greenhouse gas emissions covered by the Kyoto Protocol were estimated to be 636.6 million tonnes CO2 equivalent, 1.7% lower than the 2006 figure of 647.9 million tonnes. The corresponding figures for emissions of CO2 alone showed a net decrease of 1.5%, represented by a fall from 551.1 million tonnes (Mt) in 2006 to 542.6 Mt in 2007. Carbon dioxide accounted for about 85% of the total greenhouse gas emissions.
The drop in emissions has failed to satisfy climate campaigners like Robin Webster of Friends of the Earth. “UK emissions are slightly lower than 2006, but they are not falling nearly fast enough,” he commented. “The figures distort the picture by failing to include the UK’s share of international shipping and aviation emissions – the reality is that UK carbon dioxide emissions are still higher than when Labour came to power in 1997, despite repeated promises of significant cuts.
“The recently passed Climate Change Act commits the UK to slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 – but it won't meet this target without significant changes in Government policy.”
Whereas UK greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation have doubled from the Kyoto baseline year of 1990, overall UK GHG emissions have fallen from 779.9 MtCO2e in 1990 to 636.6 to 2007 (-18.4%). To meet its commitment under the Kyoto Protocol, the UK agreed to a legally binding target to reduce its GHG emissions to 12.5% below the base year level over the five-year period 2008-2012. This equates to a figure of 682.4 MtCO2e on average per year over the commitment period. The UK has a short-term domestic goal of reducing CO2 emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2010.
Under recent legislation, the UK has set legally binding targets to reduce GHG emissions by at least 80% by 2050, and CO2 emissions by at least 26% by 2020, both against a 1990 baseline.
Similar to that of worldwide commercial aviation, the UK contributes about 2% to global anthropogenic CO2 emissions, which, according to the IPCC, were estimated to be 38 billion tonnes in 2004.
Friends of the Earth
Greenhouse gas emissions from UK-based international aviation and shipping bunkers 1990-2007 (source: AEA/DECC)
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