UK transport minister says aviation emissions calls for a global consensus on a global problem
Ruth Kelly, UK Secretary of State for Transport
Mon 3 Mar 2008 – The UK’s Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly, said in a speech today that new answers are needed to the question of how aviation can grow sustainably. She called for a worldwide emissions trading scheme for aviation and said ICAO must “raise its game” on tackling climate change.
Speaking at a Chatham House conference in London, Kelly said that public concern over air emissions in Europe was not an aberration. “And it’s not solely a concern of the green lobby. It’s here to stay. And I believe global public opinion will follow. So the challenges are clear.”
A global consensus had to be built, she said, “because this is a global problem and aviation a global business.”
She told delegates that governments and industry must work together to take action that was balanced and practical to implement. “I don’t believe that proposals which seek crudely to ration flights by halting expansion or through punitive taxes meet either of those criteria.
“Seeking unilaterally to curtail growth would be economically damaging, and would push up fares, making air travel once again a luxury that only the rich could enjoy.
“We need to have very good reasons for placing restrictions on what people can and can’t do. We won’t achieve our emissions targets in a cost-effective way by simply putting a stop on travel and restricting the market.
“In fact, the environmental rationale for capping emissions would be undermined unless it was implemented across competing markets. Unrestricted countries – and airlines serving them – would be free to grow and absorb business from the UK. As a result, there would be no overall emissions savings – just damage to our economy. We might feel purer, but we’d feel poorer too.”
However, she was wary of arguments claiming technology alone can combat aviation’s increasing environmental impact. Although aviation is at the cutting edge of technological progress, she said, carbon emissions produced by rising demand for flights would outstrip carbon savings produced by new technologies.
“Equally,” she went on, “putting a cap on aviation in the UK, blocking airport expansion and rationing flights won’t help us tackle climate change, and would simply benefit other countries at our expense.
“Instead, we need more ambitious solutions that will allow aviation to grow sustainably. And so alongside the adoption of greener technologies, the most important action we can take is to cap total emissions in a ‘cap and trade’ scheme.
“Emissions trading makes both environmental and economic sense. And the sooner we secure international consensus and act, the more affordable that action will be.
“We want to see greater progress outside Europe – in particular the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) raising its game on tackling climate change. The first meeting of a new ICAO strategic group on International Aviation and Climate Change took place last week. We look to it to make substantive progress by summer 2009.
“Ultimately, I believe the solution has to be global – a worldwide emissions trading scheme for aviation.”