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Missed Opportunity - Critique of Aviation White Paper

17 June 2004


A report published today by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) pinpoints a fundamental contradiction between the Department of Transport's Air Transport White Paper (ATWP) and the Government's strategic commitment to dealing with climate change. The SDC makes a number of urgent recommendations in order to safeguard the Government's international leadership in the field of sustainable development and climate change.

The Department's White Paper anticipates as many as 400 million people passing through UK Airports by 2020 and 500 million by 2030. Today's figure is less than 200 million. By no stretch of the imagination, or abuse of the concept of 'sustainable transport', can increases of this kind be described as 'sustainable'.

The Commission is calling on the Department:

1. To clarify the basis on which its projections of future greenhouse gas emissions from
aviation are based, and to commission further research to resolve the substantial
discrepancies that currently exist between different projections advanced by different

2. To initiative a much more proactive and inclusive process to identify the most effective way
of incorporating the aviation sector into the EU ETS by 2008;

3. To reconsider (with Treasury) its refusal to levy an emissions charge on all European flights, pending incorporation into the EU ETS in 2008, and to explain much more explicitly why such a charge would not be the best way of forcing the aviation industry to internalise the full costs it imposes on the environment.

Commenting on the stand-off between the Department and official Government policy, SDC
Chairman, Jonathon Porritt said:

"The Department has got to stop operating as if it alone was exempted from responsibility in
addressing the challenge of climate change. The huge expansion of airports and air traffic outlined in the White Paper will render impossible government efforts to adhere to its own target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2050.

"The Department needs to engage far more constructively and intelligently with key stakeholders in this debate. Its recent response to the report of the Environmental Audit Committee on the White Paper was both ill-judged and unnecessarily hostile, inasmuch as Ministers clearly have a responsibility to demonstrate the basis on which policy is being
proposed, and to account for themselves properly to Parliament and the general public."

Missed Opportunity is a summary critique by The Sustainable Development Commission of the
Government Air Transport White Paper - 'The Future of Air Transport'.

To download a copy of Missed Opportunity, visit www.sd-commission.gov.uk (available from 17
June 2004).

Editors notes:

- In 1999, the UK Government published a sustainable development strategy for the UK: A
Better Quality of Life. The Government's recent annual report on sustainable development, Achieving a Better Quality of Life, presents a review of progress since 1999.

- The Sustainable Development Commission is the independent government advisor on sustainable development, reporting to Tony Blair and the devolved administration leaders. The Commission's objectives include advocating a compelling vision of a sustainable economy and society, and reviewing how far sustainable development is being achieved in
the UK across all sectors.

- Sustainable Development provides a framework for redirecting our economies to enable
everyone to meet their basic needs and improve their quality of life while ensuring that the
natural resources on which they depend are maintained and enhanced, both for their
benefit and for that of future generations.

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