UK lays draft Carbon Budget Order 2021 before parliament incorporating UK’s share of international aviation emissions in the new ambitious target

The draft Carbon Budget Order 2021 sets a climate change target of cutting emissions by 78% compared to 1990 levels by 2035, which incorporates the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions into a carbon emissions target for the first time.  

The Order was laid before Parliament on 21 April 2021 with the aim of enshrining a new carbon target into law by the end of June 2021. An existing target exists to commit to reductions in emissions of 68% compared to 1990 levels by 2030 which is already the highest reduction target set in any nation’s Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement. However, the Order introduces an even more ambitious target of 78% by 2035 while also incorporating UK’s contribution to carbon emissions brought about by international aviation and shipping as recommended in the Sixth Carbon Budget Report published by the Committee on Climate Change (the CCC). 

The Order and the Sixth Carbon Budget Policy Report

Carbon Budgets are set by Parliament on the advice of the independent CCC and government ministers and relevant departments. The Order itself is composed of one statement: 

“The carbon budget for the 2033-2037 budgetary period is 965,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.”

Required under the Climate Change Act 2008, each Carbon Budget sets a five-year statutory cap on total greenhouse gas emissions which should not be exceeded in order to meet the UK’s carbon reduction commitments. The Sixth Carbon Budget sets the volume of greenhouse gases the UK can emit during the period 2033-2037 in alignment with the ultimate target of net zero emissions by 2050 and this has been presented to Parliament in the Order. 

Once enacted, the Order would become the first formal legislated target that incorporates international aviation and shipping emissions. The Policy Report also recommends the following in respect of aviation emissions reduction policy:

  1. working with ICAO to align the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) to a long-term goal for aviation consistent with the Paris Agreement;

  2. committing to a net zero goal for UK aviation as part of the Aviation Decarbonisation Strategy expected in spring 2021;

  3. no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to outperform its net emissions trajectory and can accommodate additional demand;

  4. monitoring non-CO2 effects of aviation and consider how best to tackle those alongside climate targets without increasing CO2 emissions; and

  5. transitioning longer-term support for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) into more bespoke policy such as a blending mandate and support near-term construction of commercial SAF facilities in the UK.

  6. working with ICAO to align the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) to a long-term goal for aviation consistent with the Paris Agreement;

How will international aviation emissions be apportioned?  

In the Sixth Carbon Budget the CCC states that allocating international aviation emissions is no more challenging than for other sectors already included in UK targets. This is because emissions are already estimated and reported to the UN and can be included in UK targets on the same basis. The uncertainty attached to these estimates is no higher than for other sectors included in previous carbon budgets. There will always be a need to ensure that policy is designed in a way that prevents “pushing” emissions abroad. This is already being carefully managed for sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture. Unlike for international shipping, international aviation bunker fuel sales accurately reflect activity as airlines rarely carry more fuel than needed for a given flight. As the Sixth Carbon Budget expires only 13 years before 2050, the introduction of the Order is an essential step in ensuring that international aviation and shipping emissions are not excluded from the net zero journey resulting in a more accurate encapsulation of UK national emissions. 



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