28th September 2005

Controlling aviation’s impact on Climate Change

Press Notice issued by the Aviation Environment Federation (‘AEF’)

The AEF [Note 1] today welcomed the release of the European Commission’s Communication on Aviation and Climate Change, but warned that Europe urgently needs to identify the environmental targets it wishes the air transport sector to achieve.

The Communication highlights the importance of taking regional action to bring greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft under control in the absence of any global proposals, and the need to tackle all the climate change impacts of aircraft, not just its carbon dioxide emissions [Note 2]. The measures outlined in the Communication, which include aviation joining an emissions trading scheme in the short-term and the potential role of taxation in the long-term, highlight the tools available but the report stops short of setting targets for reducing aviation emissions.

Tim Johnson, Director of the AEF, said “The range of market measures to address this significant and growing problem [Note 3] has been on the table for at least six years. It is very positive that the Commission’s Communication has developed the arguments for their introduction, and outlined a way forward, but the vital next step is to prioritise discussion on what we want these instruments to achieve. We know the scale of the problem, we have agreed a level at which we need to stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gases and now we urgently need to agree a limit for emissions from the air transport sector. Including aviation in an emissions trading scheme must not become an end in itself, rather it should be a tool to secure genuine emissions reductions, and that means setting a tough cap on the sector.” [Note 4]


1. The AEF is the principal national association addressing aviation’s environmental impacts. Its members comprise local community and amenity organisations around the UK’s airports and airfields, parish councils and local authorities. It was founded in 1975, and represents its members on national, European and United Nations policy-making bodies.

2. In 1999, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its report on aviation that estimated the total climatic impact of aviation as between 2 and 4 times that of its CO2 emissions alone. The ‘multiplier’ effect is due largely to the impacts of oxides of nitrogen emitted at altitude and the warming effect of contrails.

3. Emissions from EU air travel, if allowed to grow unchecked, are set to consume the entire sustainable carbon budget of Europe by 2045. That is, if we wish to stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gases at the level EU leaders have agreed is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change, there will have to be no emissions from any other sector if aviation continues to grow at its present rate. This forecast, published recently by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, takes into account all projections from the industry for improvements in technological and operational efficiency.

4. In addition to a stringent cap, the AEF would like to see the auctioning of allowance permits to airlines, the inclusion of emissions from all flights departing EU airports, as well as the introduction of parallel measures, such as taxes and charges, to tackle non-CO2 impacts.

For further information contact either SSE or the AEF office on 020 7248 2223.

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits