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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Response from Ruth Kelly Office

Matthew Griffin
Aviation Environmental Division 1
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street
Zone 1/22
London SW1P4DR
direct line: 020 7944 4874
minicom: 011517
fax: 020 7944 2192
GTN NO: 3533 4874

Web Site: Our Ref: APE 12/5/2 23 May 2008

Dear Mr Lister,

Thank you for your further letter of 17 April to the Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly, about aviation and environmental issues. Your letter has been passed to me and I have been asked to reply.

Firstly, with regard to biofuels. The demand for biofuels is only one factor affecting food prices. The smaller harvests of 2006 and higher production costs due to increased fertiliser costs have also contributed. The Government will ask the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) to monitor how markets are affected by growing biofuel demand and we expect that the RFA will include an assessment of these effects in its annual report to Parliament. The UK Government will continue to gather evidence on the impacts of biofuel use to help ensure that targets are set at appropriate levels.

In the longer term, second generation biofuel technologies have the potential to reduce pressure on land because they can use a wider range of feedstocks, including waste.

On 21 February the Government announced a review, led by the RFA, of the emerging evidence on the indirect impacts of biofuel production, and what these mean for future biofuel policies and targets. The review will look at the wider environmental and economic impacts and will also take into account evidence concerning food security issues. An initial analysis will be provided to Ministers as soon as possible, with a full report to follow in late June. The review should help to ensure that we have the right evidence base to support decisions on the future of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) scheme and longer-term targets.

In the absence of agreed international standards on the sustainability of biofuels, the Government has incorporated sustainability safeguards into the RTFO. All transport fuel suppliers will be required to report on the greenhouse gas savings and wider sustainability impacts associated with their biofuels in order to claim any credit for them under the RTFO.

We have also made clear that our agreement to future EU biofuel targets is conditional on our being satisfied that they can be met sustainably. We will be negotiating hard over the months ahead to ensure that the relevant EU legislation requires all biofuels to meet robust, mandatory sustainability standards. We have set stretching targets to demonstrate the level of performance that we expect from transport fuel suppliers in this area.

We will be asking the RFA to report regularly on the impacts of the policy, and on the performance of different transport fuel suppliers against the targets. We want this process to be as open and transparent as possible, and further information can be obtained via the RFA's website at

With regard to the other points you raise, I will respond as you set them out in your letter.

Point 1 - We have not ignored the IPCC report. The UK has acknowledged that climate change is the biggest single issue that we face and we are taking action. However, we must acknowledge that the UK can not act alone in tackling climate change which is why we are taking the lead both in proposing our Climate Change Bill which will enshrine domestic emissions reductions in UK law, and in leading for tough targets in the post-Kyoto process. That is not to say we shouldn't take action now and in fact we are doing so.

With particular reference to aviation, the UK has a comprehensive strategy which is in line with the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change and promotes the use of economic instruments, alongside investment in research and development and removal of barriers to behavioural change.

As set out in the previous letter, the UK supports a truly global solution for an international industry such as aviation. However progress on a global scale has been slow and therefore the UK supports the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme as the key priority.
In terms of investment in research and development both governments and industry have a role to play, and work on this has been in place for several years for example the UK Government has been involved in the EU-led QUANTIFY project and the establishment of the OMEGA knowledge transfer network. More recently the Commission launched the joint Clean Sky Technology Initiative worth €1.6bn over seven years. This investment has been alongside improvements which have made the operations of both airports and airlines more efficient, for example where possible aircraft, use the Continuous Descent Approach when landing which can save about 1% of total fuel per aircraft.

Point 2 - As explained before, emissions from international aviation are not included in the targets of the Climate Change Bill as there is currently no agreement on how to allocate these international emissions to national inventories. The Bill does, however, cover CO2 emissions from domestic flights.

The Climate Change Bill includes provisions which would enable Ministers to include international aviation emissions in UK totals in the event of developments in international carbon reporting practices for the sector. The UK Government is not discounting or ignoring these international emissions. The fact that emissions from international aviation are not included in the draft Climate Change Bill does not mean that we are not taking action to tackle the climate change impacts of aviation. As stated above, such a truly international industry like aviation requires a global solution and we are pressing internationally through both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for this. We will also ask the new independent Committee on Climate Change to look at the implications of including international aviation in the UK's targets, as part of its overall report on the UK's 2050 target.

The Future of Air Transport White Paper sets out our commitment to ensuring that aviation reflects the full costs of its climate change emissions and highlights that the most efficient way of doing this is through a well-designed, international emissions trading scheme.

Point 3 - This would be a matter for the Home Office. For further information on policing, you may wish to contact them directly.

Point 4 - The additional 1,300 carriages announced in last year's rail white paper for the period 2009 - 2014 are estimated to result in a direct increase in annual rail CO2 emissions of 117,000 tonnes. This is only partially offset by a fall of 15,000 tonnes in car CO2 emissions from travellers switching to rail.

The Committee on Climate Change has been tasked with advising the Government on future 5 year carbon budgets. Their advice is expected by the end of 2008. To help inform the Government's response to these recommendations, this department is currently analysing how the carbon emissions of different transport modes including rail are likely to change in the period up to 2022. Part of this process involves considering the implications for diesel and electricity consumption (including how the power generating mix is expected to change over time, for example through an increased use of renewables). As this work is still underway, we are unable to provide any detailed figures at present.

Point 5 - It is not Government policy to reduce demand. The White Paper recognises that while simply building more and more capacity to meet demand would not be a sustainable way forward, there is a need for some additional airport capacity so that the economic and social benefits of air travel to the UK can be realised.

As you are aware, Government policy on aviation is set out in the Future of Air Transport White Paper. The Government has set out a sustainable way forward taking into account the social, environmental and economic factors.

Point 6 - In 2003 the Government outlined its support for a third runway at Heathrow. This was contained in the 'Future of Air Transport'White Paper. The White Paper made clear that this support is conditional on meeting strict local noise and air quality limits. It also said that scope for making greater use of the two existing runways should be explored, subject to the same environmental conditions. The consultation presents the outcome of our assessment of these options and invites views. We want our final policy decisions to be based on the full range of evidence including that from those most directly affected.

We are now analysing all the responses received during the consultation period. Following this work, advice will be prepared for ministers so that decisions can be taken on each of the consultation issues later this year. Ministers will take account of all the evidence, including responses to the consultation, in reaching final policy decisions, which are expected later in 2008.
I hope you find this helpful.
Yours sincerely

Matthew Griffin
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