Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

Predict and Decide

The UK Government is committed to a 60% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from UK activities between 1990 and 2050. Many climate scientists now believe that even tougher targets are needed, but in all cases swift action is required to reduce climate impacts. Yet the UK’s Aviation White Paper sets a policy framework that supports a major expansion in aviation activity, which would enable air passenger movements to increase from about 200 million in 2003 to about 470 million in 2030.

The ECI commissioned this report: 'Predict and decide: aviation, climate change and UK policy' to assess the implications of aviation growth in the UK, while recognising that there would be some positive benefits. Available evidence about the scale, nature and impacts of the projected rise in air travel is used to weigh up the arguments for and against restraining aviation, particularly passenger air travel.

In the light of this evidence and the UK’s environmental goals, the report concludes that the Government will need to explore a policy of managing demand for air travel. This is likely to include:

  • A change in strategic policy to give a presumption against the expansion of UK airport capacity;
  • A fiscal package to make flying less attractively priced;
  • A communication strategy that builds on existing public support for addressing aviation’s environmental impacts and ensures that the contribution of flying to climate change is understood and recognised.

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