Planes and ships ‘must be included in carbon cut targets’

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Emissions from international flights and shipping should be included in the UK’s targets for cutting greenhouse gases, the Government’s climate advisers said yesterday.

In a move described by the Committee on Climate Change as a “test” of the Government’s commitment to a low-carbon economy, the advisory body recommended the sectors should be formally included in the 2050 emissions cut target.

Currently, the legally-binding goal to reduce the UK’s emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050 do not include international flights and shipping, due to issues with estimating their pollution, but a decision on including them is due this year.

The targets to reduce emissions set in a series of five-year “carbon budgets” agreed up to 2027 assume that they will be included.

As a result, there are more ambitious cuts in other sectors such as electricity generation to allow for the fact that aviation and shipping cannot be cut by 80 per cent.

The Committee on Climate Change’s chief executive David Kennedy said there was a “risk” the Government, or future administrations, would not continue to make that assumption and the goals for cutting overall emissions would become less ambitious.

The committee said the two areas should be in the legislation on tackling climate change as they are major sources of pollution, and the carbon budgets up to 2027 should be increased to allow for aviation and shipping.

The UK is signed up to tackling emissions from aviation under the EU’s emissions trading scheme, and there are international moves to address shipping pollution – so adding them to domestic targets would not increase cost or force new commitments on the sectors.

But it would provide certainty that this Government and future administrations were committed to cutting the UK’s emissions.