Page last updated at 22:41 GMT, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Climate laws to include planes

Planes at Heathrow airport
Ministers have been under pressure over aviation emissions

The government has agreed to include aviation and shipping in an ambitious push to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Ministers said they would give "due regard" to projected emissions from the two industries when setting budgets for carbon reduction in the future.

More than 50 Labour MPs pressed for the sectors to be included in the Climate Change Bill, which sets a target to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

Environmental campaigners have welcomed the government's change of heart.

The government agreed to redraft its bill, which was given a third reading by 463 votes to three - a majority of 460 - in the Commons.

It accepted an amendment requiring ministers to take into account projected emissions from the sectors when setting future budgets that will cap emissions.

Environment minister Joan Ruddock said that action to reduce emissions from commercial aviation and shipping was "vital" to tackle the threat of climate change.

"In setting or advising on budgets due regard should be given to emissions from international aviation and shipping," she said.

But she stressed the main way of tackling such emissions would be through international agreements such as the EU emissions trading scheme and a successor to the Kyoto climate change protocol.


Former environment minister Elliot Morley, who backed the amendment, said the industries' inclusion in the bill was "absolutely imperative" and would give a "clear signal" the UK was serious in moving to a low-carbon economy.

The Conservatives backed the government's move, saying no industries should be "exempt" from efforts to tackle carbon change

But they called for assurances that the competitiveness of the UK aviation industry would not be affected.

Graph showing carbon dioxide emissions by industry

The Lib Dems said there were no "firm guarantees" in the bill over the issue and said ministers were afraid of "tough action" against the aviation industry.

Once agreed, the Climate Change Bill would make the UK the first country to have legally binding targets for the reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

It would require the government to publish carbon budgets every five years - starting in December - and enable it to set up carbon trading schemes to encourage firms to reduce pollution.

The government has resisted calls in the past to include aviation and shipping, saying it would be nearly impossible to allocate responsibility for international emissions to individual countries.

The government's advisory committee on climate change, headed by Lord Turner, recommended last month that the sectors must figure in climate change targets while arguing that they would not be able to meet the 80% target by 2050.

'Greener future'

Ms Ruddock said there was no "agreed methodology" on how emissions should be attributed at this stage.

But she said she was encouraged aviation would now be included in the EU's new emissions trading scheme and "optimistic" that plane manufacturers were committed to cleaner technology.

Environmental campaigners said the move would make the legislation more effective and pledged to hold ministers to the targets.

"Developing a low carbon economy here in the UK is the only way to deliver on the law, move Britain out of recession and into a greener more prosperous future," said Andy Atkins, executive director at Friends of the Earth.

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