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A one way ticket to carbon lock in please: the UK debate on aviation policy

Publication Date
  • Aviation
  • Heathrow
  • Policy
  • Emissions.
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Geography


The UK Climate Change Act 2008 requires Government to decide by the end of 2012, whether and how it will include international aviation emissions in the Act’s emission reduction framework. The decision will follow two public consultations and be announced within the context of a double dip recession and assertions that expanding aviation capacity will reinvigorate an ailing economy [1,2]. The additional greenhouse gas emissions from expansion, it is argued, will be minimised by the use of “environmentally friendly planes” incentivised through aviation’s recent inclusion in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS); any residual emissions would be offset through traded permits [101]. This article highlights how, given the difficulties of carrying out robust analysis on the economics around aviation, the presumption that further aviation growth is good for the economy is at best premature and may yet prove dangerously misleading. As it stands, the debate is ongoing as to whether investment in aviation generates returns over and above similar investment levels elsewhere in the UK economy. Any resilient decision on investment must heed the carbon intensity of the activity in generating such returns and the likely upwards trajectory of a carbon price.

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