Environmental Audit Committee launches new inquiry on aviation and shipping’s voyage to net zero

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has today announced that it is to look at how the aviation and shipping sectors can best achieve net zero emissions.

Shipping and aviation together make up 10% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, and decarbonising these sectors will play a key role in achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Aviation is set to be the largest emitting sector by 2050 on current trends, while the International Maritime Organization (IMO) warns that carbon emissions from shipping – responsible for transporting 80% of the world’s trade – are projected to increase by up to 50% above 2018 levels by 2050 if no action is taken. 

During the inquiry, the EAC will be considering a number of areas which could play a significant role in reducing emissions for the aviation and shipping sectors. These include: the commercialisation of new technologies and low, transitioning to zero, carbon fuels; reductions in demand; and options to drive international action to lower global emissions from these sectors.

In its recently published Transport Decarbonisation Plan and Jet Zero consultation, the UK Government has outlined its ambition for UK domestic aviation to be net zero by 2040 by driving innovation and early technology adoption, with a target to reach net zero aviation emissions by 2050 and a commitment to maritime net zero as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has also recently unveiled its ‘Fit for 55’ plan which will tax  aviation and maritime fuels for the first time while setting targets on shipping emissions and sustainable aviation fuels. This is in addition to the expanded Emissions Trading Scheme covering shipping within the EU from 2023.

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, launching the EAC’s call for evidence, said: “Aviation and shipping make up 10% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. As we get back to normal after the pandemic, we must find ways to support the aviation and shipping sectors while drastically reducing their carbon footprint: it won’t be plain sailing but failure to do so will never see net zero Britain take off.

“International shipping transports more than 80% of global trade, and if no action is taken, its emissions could double by 2050. There are bold ambitions – unveiled by Government only last week – for new technology to lower our share of international aviation’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

“It is welcome that the Government has launched serious engagement in this year of COP26 to include these emissions in developing plans for Net Zero Britain. But the technical challenges are immense and we wish to shine a light through this inquiry on the opportunities and risks in achieving these goals.

“We are inviting written evidence submissions to guide our inquiry and would encourage anyone concerned about these issues to consider making a contribution.”

Terms of reference

The Committee is inviting written submissions by 3 September. These should focus on, but not be limited to:

  • What contribution can operational efficiencies make to reduce emissions from aircraft / shipping vessels and over what timescale could these have an effect on emissions? 
  • How close are zero carbon fuels to commercialisation for aviation / shipping? How effective will the Jet Zero Council be in catalysing zero emissions technologies? What role should transitional fuels such as alternative hydrocarbon fuels play? 
  • What new technologies are there to reduce emissions from aircraft / shipping vessels and how close to commercialisation are they?  
  • How should the Government’s net zero aviation strategy support UK industry in the development and uptake of technologies, fuels and infrastructure to deliver net zero shipping and aviation? 
  • What is the most equitable way to reduce aircraft passenger numbers (e.g. reforming air passenger duty and taxes, frequent flyer levies, bans on domestic flights where trains are available, restrictions on airport capacity)? Are there any policy mechanisms that could reduce our reliance on shipping? 
  • What further action is needed by the International Civil Aviation Organization and International Maritime Organization to drive emissions reductions? What can the UK Government do to drive international action on emissions? 
  • How effective will the global offsetting scheme for international airlines (ICAO’s CORSIA) and the UK and EU ETS be at stimulating technology improvement and/ or behaviour change to reduce emissions from aviation / shipping? 
  • How should the UK define its ownership of international aviation and shipping emissions (i.e. arrivals, departures or both) in order to include them in legislative targets? 

Committee membership is as follows: Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, Chairman (Con, Ludlow), Duncan Baker MP (Con, North Norfolk), Dan Carden MP (Lab, Liverpool, Walton), Sir Christopher Chope MP (Con, Christchurch), Barry Gardiner MP (Lab, Brent North), Rt Hon Robert Goodwill MP (Con, Scarborough and Whitby), James Gray (Con, North Wiltshire), Helen Hayes MP (Lab, Dulwich and West Norwood), Ian Levy MP (Con, Blyth Valley), Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavilion), Cherilyn Mackrory MP (Con, Truro and Falmouth), Jerome Mayhew MP (Con, Broadland), John McNally MP (SNP, Falkirk), Dr Matthew Offord MP (Con, Hendon), Claudia Webbe MP (Ind, Leicester East), Nadia Whittome MP (Lab, Nottingham East). 

Committee website: Environmental Audit Committee   

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