The aviation industry could grow by 60 per cent while still meeting the government’s CO2 targets if other sectors of the economy make significant cuts to their carbon emissions.
This is the conclusion of a report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent regulator set up by the Climate Change Act, which claims that a 90 per cent emissions cut in other sectors will allow 60 per cent more people to fly by 2050.
However the figure is a reduction on the 200 per cent growth projected by the government under current estimates, based on technological improvements in aircraft design and the expansion of airport runways.
Lord Turner, chair of the committee, said: ‘Aviation emissions must be included within our strategy to tackle climate change. We have set out options for achieving the government’s target that aviation emissions in 2050 should not exceed 2005 levels.
‘Given the likely pace of technological progress, a demand increase of up to 60 per cent but no more could be compatible with the government’s target. Aviation policies should be consistent with this overall limit on demand growth, unless and until more rapid technological progress than currently anticipated makes any greater increase compatible with the target.’
An increase in high-speed rail to substitute domestic and short-haul flights to Europe is among the suggestions put forward by the report. It claims that this could account for a 10 per cent reduction in aviation demand by 2050.
The report also suggests that the use of sustainable biofuels in aviation poses significant challenges due to technological uncertainty over the feasibility of algae-based biofuels as well as a future projected shortage of land and water resources.
It therefore states that biofuels can account for no more than 10 per cent of the total aviation mix by 2050 and concludes that improvements in areas such as engine and airframe design are likely to result in a 30 per cent reduction in carbon emissions per seat km flown.
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